Monthly Archives: May 2018

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I’m not here to write a pretty introduction; it’s game time.

Benjamin Watson is gone; the 37-year old tight end signed with the New Orleans Saints. Now, the Ravens are banking on the youth movement, whether it be the brand new roster additions of first-round pick Hayden Hurst or the third-round selection Mark Andrews, or, if not these men, the ‘veterans’ Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle and Darren Waller hopefully put this damn game together. Either way, somebody, please, step up.

Most times when I write, I attempt to come off as a ‘professional’, but now, I write as a fan pleading for at least one Baltimore Raven to become the tight end of the future, here in the present.

Fans are out of patience; no more are the excuses. Fans are done with the Joe Flacco excuses, done with the injury excuses, done with the coaching excuses. We’re exhausted with the word, ‘potential’, and are craving the word ‘production.’ But this article is tight end oriented, and I’m going to stick with the message.

The stat-line of Benjamin Watson last season:

16 games | 12 starts | 79 targets | 61 catches | 522 yards | four touchdowns

Due to the dump-off offense of Joe Flacco and Marty Mornhinweg, Watson led the team in receptions. I know many of you shuddered from this, and I’m only going to evoke more frustration cause teams are strategizing explicitly for this. I can no longer watch a 3rd & 8 without throwing money at my television and shouting into the void, “Bet it’s going to a tight end on a drag route!”

The previous seasons cannot simply be replicated, they must be more. For once, somebody, step up.

“Absolutely. You got it right, I promise you.”
As my grandfather taught me for years now, a man’s word is bond, and until proven wrong, I put my faith in Hayden Hurst. His absolute loyalty in the phone call with Ozzie screams determination:
(This begins at 0:15)

Ozzie Newsome: “Hey, you’ve worked hard to get to this point and I got about ten guys and a couple of young ladies in this room just excited that we’re bringing you to Baltimore to be a part of what we’re going to do.”

Hayden Hurst: “I couldn’t be happier, it’s a perfect fit. You got your guy. You got the best tight end and I’m going to come in and prove it.”

Oz: “I got the best tight end and you’re going to come in and prove it?”

HH: “Absolutely.”

Ravens fans know passion and they also know the lack thereof; from Ray Lewis and Ed Reed to players cashing a paycheck and leaning back on the bench to not catch their coaches eye. But Hayden, within a moment of speaking to the Hall of Fame tight end and General Manager, resigns complete loyalty to the Ravens:

Oz: “From the first time I saw you on tape, I go, ‘this is a guy that can come go on our football team.’”

HH: “Absolutely. You got it right, I promise you.”

Oz: “You promise me?”

HH: “Yessir.”

At this point, I’m resigned to Williams, Boyle and Waller not becoming a number one option. They’re capable number two’s, but they cannot lead this unit in receptions. I appreciate Ozzie, John Harbaugh and Eric DeCosta re-vamping this unit with Hurst and Andrews. Now, it’s for the delivery.

As I mentioned, simply replicating Watson’s numbers is not enough, though. At least one of these five must over-achieve. I’m certain zero fans would be upset if it was Waller, Boyle or Andrews. They’d also love Hurst or Williams becoming a threat. It’s only the frustration of witnessing nobody step up and deliver, which clenches the fists of upset fans as they raise fists to the sky in confusion.

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When the Ravens traded back from No. 16 to No. 22 in this year’s draft, they had a clump of offensive players in mind for the pick.

When all of them were still on the board, they moved back again to No. 25. This time, one of the players they liked, wide receiver D.J. Moore, was grabbed by the Carolina Panthers one spot ahead.

The Ravens knew they wanted to add a pass-catcher and had two highly-graded ones staring them in the face: tight end Hayden Hurst and wide receiver Calvin Ridley.

“That was a very tough decision, and in fact, a decision that we never really made until basically when we were on the clock or right around that time,” Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta told “The Lounge” podcast.

“It’s hard to make those decisions when you have two players who are very close.”

Hurst was the top tight end in the draft. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound South Carolina product can be used in a variety of ways, catches everything thrown at him, has the athleticism to stretch the field and is a willing and good blocker.

Ridley was a big-play machine at Alabama, where he put up strong production in all three of his seasons. He was regarded as the best route-runner in the class, though some analysts bumped him behind Moore after the NFL Scouting Combine.

DeCosta broke down the Ravens’ process in picking between the two.

One factor was need. The Ravens didn’t have any pass-catching tight ends on the roster, as Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams are used more as blockers.

On the flip side, Baltimore had already signed Michael Crabtree, John “Smokey” Brown and Willie Snead IV at wide receiver, which already provided the makeover the Ravens needed. Baltimore still wanted more long-term solutions, and more competition, at the position, but there wasn’t as much immediate need.

The other reason DeCosta cited isn’t one fans may have expected.

“I also think that if you’re just looking at predicting success, first-round tight ends, historically, have done much better than first-round wideouts, which is a much more volatile position in the draft,” he said.

Last year, three wide receivers went in the first round. None of them had standout rookie seasons. Since 2015, only one wide receiver (Oakland Raiders’ Amari Cooper) has gone to a Pro Bowl. Last year, the draft’s top tight ends (Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ O.J. Howard and New York Giants’ Evan Engram) each had more success than the wide receivers.

Those were factors, but in the end, part of it also comes down to a gut feeling. And the Ravens had a good feel for Hurst and what he would do for quarterback Joe Flacco.

“We thought Calvin was a great prospect,” DeCosta said. “But we met with Hayden recently, and his maturity, his skillset, the comparisons to players like Todd Heap, his ability to make plays in the middle of the field, we felt was really important.

“As we thought about Joe Flacco, it was easy for us to envision Joe throwing the ball to Hayden Hurst and Hayden making plays in our offense. Even though it was a very tough decision – agonizing decision – Hayden made the most sense for us.”