The Baltimore Ravens made a conscious and concerted effort to turn over the pass-catching positions in their offense this offseason. They parted with all of their top targets from a year ago, signed three new starting wide receivers in free agency, drafted two more wide receivers, and added tight ends in the first and third rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.
The results so far have been positive. Through three games, Michael Crabree, John Brown and Willie Snead have all caught at least 12 passes for at least 140 yards. Brown has 222 yards and two touchdowns, while the others each also have a touchdown.
Meanwhile, third-round tight end Mark Andrews has eight receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown, including gains of 29 and 30 yards in the team’s last game. He has been receiving high praise from local corners, while getting a lot of playing time due to the absence of their first-round pick.
But that top pick, Hayden Hurst, returned to practice this week for the first time since training camp. He suffered a stress fracture in his foot and had it surgically repaired a little over a month ago. While getting back on the practice field is an important step, it’s certainly no guarantee that he will be able to play this week against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Today will be a big day for him. If he has an uneventful week of practice, with no setbacks from putting strain on his injured foot, then he very well could make his debut, though he will surely be limited. The Ravens are not necessarily hurting for his contributions, either.
In addition to the rookie Andrews, the team still retains Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle, both of whom have been on the roster for at least a few years now as contributors. Each of them have recorded 68 yards so far this year, the former on seven receptions, the latter on six.
Given how the Steelers have struggled to defend against the tight end so far this year—particularly against Travis Kelce a couple of weeks ago—the Ravens could certainly look to exploit potential matchups that they can face in Pittsburgh.
Of course, quarterback Joe Flacco may not have the time to even find his tight ends if he is too busy throwing it against whichever cornerback in the rotation happens to be manning the right side of the defense.