Sat, 02 Dec 2023

50 Words or Less: How to Deal With Losing Mark Andrews

Baltimore Ravens
19 Nov 2023, 04:25 GMT+10

Ryan Mink

The Ravens are enjoying a weekend off thanks to a 34-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night, but the loss of Mark Andrews to a likely season-ending ankle injury puts a damper on the good vibes.

Here are my thoughts on where the Ravens stand now and how they can deal with the loss:

There is no replacing Andrews. He's a special player, a special teammate, and the peanut butter to Lamar Jackson's jelly. But I disagree with ESPN's Stephen A. Smith that it's a "devastating blow." The Ravens offense and Jackson have time, including six games before the playoffs, to adjust.

The Ravens invested heavily at wide receiver this offseason to diversity the passing attack and take pressure off Andrews to be "the guy." He was still "the guy," but the Ravens have four first-round picks leading the receiving corps. They're all capable of feasting with more food on their plates.

Odell Beckham Jr. had his best game and first 100-yard performance Thursday night, but he got the fourth-most snaps among the team's wide receivers. Rashod Bateman is quietly trending up, and his first touchdown of the season could lift the weight just like it did for Beckham two weeks ago.

Zay Flowers leads Baltimore with 72 targets, yet it feels like he's still not getting enough considering how open he's been. Flowers should've had his first touchdown at The Bank, but it won't be long until he's in the end zone again. Andrews led the Ravens with six touchdown catches.

The red zone is the area where Andrews' absence will be felt most. Jackson often trusts Andrews to find openings in tight quarters in the end zone. Beckham's strong hands and Flowers' suddenness to uncover in tight spaces helps, as does the fact that Baltimore is running well down there.

For Jackson, it's going to come down to trust. He trusted Andrews tremendously. Jackson has built that trust with other players (he wore a Flowers T-shirt before Thursday's game, after all), but this will be another test for Jackson. Can he still thrive without his right-hand man?

As much as the wide receivers will be the answer to replacing Andrews, don't overlook the running backs - both on the ground and in the air. They caught four passes Thursday and Keaton Mitchell had a pair of targets vs. Cleveland. That's another way to get him even more involved.

It's been challenging for Isaiah Likely, who caught 36 passes as a rookie but only has nine catches through 11 games. A downturn in opportunities was bound to happen with so many mouths to feed. But Likely has the talent to scarf now with a seat at the table.

As rough as the Andrews loss is, the Bengals and Browns have it worse losing their franchise quarterbacks to season-ending injuries. The Ravens know the feeling all too well after what happened to Jackson the past couple years. Another reason to count your blessings that Jackson's ankle is fine.

In two games against the Ravens this season, Ja'Marr Chase had seven catches for 43 yards - both times without Marlon Humphrey. Big props go to Brandon Stephens, who was on Chase duty on 22 of his 35 routes, but it goes beyond that. The secondary is playing well in unison.

Kyle Hamilton is one of the defense's best five players and one of the best safeties in the NFL. In his second year, Hamilton has come into his own as a jack-of-all-trades talent that is invaluable to the Ravens' ability to disguise their pre- vs. post-snap intentions.

The Ravens' run defense has been too leaky the past two weeks. Bengals running back Joe Mixon was averaging nearly five yards per carry before the game got out of hand late. The Browns' Jerome Ford averaged 6.3 yards per carry the week before that. Baltimore needs to tighten up.

The Steelers haven't outgained an opponent, yet are now the Ravens' chief threat for the AFC North crown. They're 6-3, have the Browns and Bengals next, and a soft schedule the rest of the way - except for Week 17 in Baltimore. The Ravens will hope to end their good fortunes.

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