Nick Boyle, make no mistake about it, is the best blocking tight end in the National Football League. Boyle isn’t an upper echelon pass catcher, though it’s the area the Ravens could get more out of him in the 2021 season.
Boyle played essentially half of the 2020 season. According to Pro Football Focus, Boyle was targeted 17 times and came away with 14 receptions. Boyle would have likely had his second consecutive season over 30 receptions if he didn’t get hurt against the New England Patriots.
That’s not chump change in this offense. This a run-heavy, run-first offense that caps the maximum numbers of their pass catchers just with their identity and their focus. In 2019, Boyle had 31 receptions for over 300 yards and two touchdowns. In 2020 that would have been a higher total than Devin Duvernay, Miles Boykin, and J.K. Dobbins.
Boyle averaged just over eight yards per catch. We’re not talking big plays here. We’re talking about easy money plays, easy completions for Lamar Jackson. The Ravens should take advantage of two facts in the 2021 season. First, Nick Boyle the pass-catcher seldom worries defensive coordinators as a pass-catcher. Secondly, Boyle is on the field a lot.
Boyle is an orc as a blocker and a hobbit as a receiver. Wasn’t the whole point of The Lord of the Rings that hobbits like Frodo and Samwise are valuable but overlooked? Boyle would be bad casting as a Frodo, but sign him to play Samwise Gamgee any day of the week.
The point is that everybody knows that Boyle is there. Everybody knows what he can do. Few defensive coordinators really care. If I was Greg Roman I’d set out to get Boyle 45 receptions a season. Why? Because they’re there for the taking and I’ll take eight to ten yards on a high percentage throw in an offense built on efficiency with a love of a lengthy drive.
The Tennessee Titans were punished for leaving Pat Ricard open in the flats in the playoff game this past season. It wasn’t because Ricard was a big-time receiving threat. It was because they didn’t even care if it was coming. It gave the Ravens offense a bit of a pick-me-up.
Lamar Jackson loves throwing the football in the middle of the field. Miles Boykin can’t be moved to the tight end position by the way, do you want to know why? It’s because Jackson has no connection to Boykin and it shows. Whether it’s trust, chemistry, or Boykin not getting open, they have a lack of connection that can only be described as a pair of Bluetooth headphones and an old cassette player.
Do you know who is Jackson’s most underrated chemistry connection? It’s Boyle. Boyle and Jackson get each other. You can’t say that about any player on the Ravens other than Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown.
The Bottom Line:
Boyle isn’t your primary receiver on most plays, though pop passes and the occasional tight end screen to him are not bad ideas. He’s always there though. While the defense is worried about Andrews down the field, Boyle provides the underneath production that is often essential.
Boyle should not quit his day job, he has to keep being the blocking tight end. The Ravens should however be more aware of how easy it is for Boyle to chip in what he does as a pass-catcher. The plays are there and they add up when they are made.