Last week we identified a tasty matchup for the Browns tight ends against the Arizona Cardinals, and Ricky Seals-Jones took advantage of it en route to a two-touchdown performance. This week, the Browns defense will be the ones having to contend with the incredibly deep and productive tight end room of the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens have utilized their tight ends in the passing game more than any other team in the NFL this season. Baltimore's trio, which is paced by Pro Bowler Mark Andrews, has accounted for 160 targets, 112 receptions (70 percent catch rate), 1,355 yards and 12 touchdowns. For comparison's sake, the Ravens wide receivers have been targeted 162 times, have caught 105 passes for 1,339 yards and 18 touchdowns. There are not many other teams in the NFL) that have a roughly 50/50 split between tight end and wide receiver targets, and the Ravens are also the only team in the NFL with more receiving yards from the tight ends than the wideouts.
Andrews has been the main man and leads the team in targets (89), receptions (58), receiving yards (759) and receiving touchdowns (8). His eight receiving touchdowns are the most by a tight end in Baltimore Ravens history, and for the analytics folks, his 2.81 yards per route run is second among all tight ends, trailing only George Kittle. Joining Andrews are two very capable tight ends in Nick Boyle and last year's first-round pick, Hayden Hurst. Boyle is listed as the starter on the depth chart and is a ferocious blocker who has also caught 27 of his 37 targets for 291 yards and two touchdowns. Hurst, for his part, has caught 27 of his 34 targets for 305 yards and two touchdowns of his own.
Not only do the Ravens multiple tight ends present huge issues in defending their league-leading rushing attack, but they also must be accounted for in the passing game. This is especially true in the red zone, where nine of the tight ends' 12 touchdowns have been caught, including six from Andrews, which is tied for fourth-most in the NFL.
For their part, the Browns have been excellent against tight ends for the majority of the season, especially the last six games. Over the last six, the Browns have allowed just two scores to opposing tight ends, and no tight end group has accounted for even 60 yards receiving against them. In the first meeting with the Ravens, Baltimore's tight ends caught seven of their 11 targets for 79 yards and a touchdown with Andrews leading the way with four catches for 39 and the aforementioned score. The Browns will need to continue their excellent play against tight ends Sunday to slow down this incredibly productive group that has been instrumental in the success of the league's top scoring offense.