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How productive will the Ravens' tight ends be in 2016?

How productive will the Ravens' tight ends be in 2016?

How productive will the Ravens’ tight end-by-committee system be?

That’s another key question for the Ravens as they head into on-field OTA’s this week. Regardless of what happens with Dennis Pitta, who is trying to come back from his second major hip injury, the Ravens are deep at tight end. They signed Ben Watson during free agency, and have drafted three tight ends since 2014 – Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, and Nick Boyle.

However, with Boyle facing a 10-game suspension due to his second PED violation, the Ravens know he won’t see game action until at least November. Meanwhile, Gillmore had offseason shoulder surgery, leaving his readiness for Week 1 still uncertain.

If the season began today, the Ravens would be leaning on Watson and Williams. The addition of Watson during free agency indicates the tight end position will remain a priority in the Ravens attack. Watson is coming off a career-best season with the Saints – 74 catches for 825 yards and six touchdowns. The Ravens should not expect Watson to duplicate that at age 35. But Watson’s reliability in third down and red zone situations gives Joe Flacco another veteran to target in clutch situations.

Still only 22 years, Williams struggled at times as a rookie (32 catches, 268 yards, one touchdown), but his play improved as the season progressed. The Ravens will take a close look at Williams this offseason, hoping they will see more consistency from their second-round pick in 2015.

Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman likes throwing to tight ends, and so does Flacco. The Ravens don’t have a prolific tight end like Rob Gronkowski, Greg Olsen, Delanie Walker, or Greg Olsen, who all topped 1,000 yards in receiving last season. However, the Ravens want to mix two tight-end sets into their attack on a regular basis, making depth at that position important.

The Ravens got a combined 83 catches and five touchdowns from their tight ends last year. In 2016, they will be counting on those numbers to rise.

MORE RAVENS: WHERE IS FORMER RAVEN BOLDIN HEADING TO NEXT?

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Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

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Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

The defensive performance on display by the Baltimore Ravens Sunday against the Tennessee Titans in a 21-0 shutout win was flat out historic. So historic that it's earned linebacker Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

A franchise-record 11 sacks were laid on quarterback Marcus Mariota during the Week 6 matchup, with Smith leading the way with three of them.   

So far this season the 26-year-old has 20 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks, and one forced fumble. As someone who is in the final year of his rookie NFL contract, he's certainly proving he is worthy of getting paid this offseason. 

"It feels great, man. It's big," Smith said of the honor during media availability Wednesday. "I know when I first found out I called my mom and she was already looking at it. But I called her and she was trying to congratulate me and was like 'who would've ever thought the guy that played one year of high school football would be where he at now and making so many goals.'"

But earning AFC Defensive Player of the Week isn't the only goal Smith has in mind. His performance through the first six weeks and assisting the No. 1 ranked scoring defense is just a stepping stone to the ultimate honor.

"I was telling her, 'Ma you know this is a good self-goal but my main goal is to get us to the Super Bowl.'" 

The road to the Super Bowl for Smith and the Ravens continues this Sunday vs. Drew Brees and the Saints. 

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Peter King awards two Ravens with weekly honors for defensive performance vs.Titans

Peter King awards two Ravens with weekly honors for defensive performance vs.Titans

The Baltimore Ravens' Week 6 dominate performance over the Tennessee Titans is gaining national attention. 

A historic game that displayed the offense and defense firing on all cylinders, it's hard to pinpoint who had the biggest impact. 

So in his latest edition of Football Morning in America, NBC Sports' Peter King awarded not one, but two Ravens with weekly honors.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Za'Darius Smith

Against the Titans, Smith led the Ravens defense with three sacks and five tackles in their historic 11-sack game. On of three Defensive Players of the Week, King explained why Smith's performance stood out.

In the most dominant defensive performance of this ultra-offensive season, the Ravens shut out Tennessee 21-0 and had 11 sacks. Another one of GM Ozzie Newsome’s draft gifts that keeps on giving, Smith (2015, round four, Kentucky) contributed three sacks of Marcus Mariota and five tackles in a virtuoso game. Net passing yards for Mariota: 51.

Smith, who's entering the final year of his rookie NFL contract, has shown over six games he deserves to get paid in the offseason. So far this season the 26-year-old has 20 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks and one forced fumble. 

COACH OF THE WEEK: Don "Wink" Martindale

In his first season as defensive coordinator, Don "Wink" Martindale has seamlessly made the transition from linebackers coach to leading the NFL's No. 1 scoring defense (12.8). But what impressed King the most from the 21-0 shutout was how Martindale's squad got to Mariota from every direction. 

When a unit records more sacks (11) than completions allowed (10), the leader gets an award. Those are the rules. Martindale’s pass rushers got to Marcus Mariota every possible way—up the middle, around the edges, in the pocket, on bootlegs, you name it. The total set a new franchise record and was one short of the single-game NFL mark of 12. And it came with a familiar face watching: Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees used to hold the same position in Baltimore. Shout out to the Ravens social media team for renaming the account RavenSSSSSSSSSSS, one ‘S’ for each sack.

This Ravens defense, who has always been known for its dominance, is ranked first in points allowed (12.8), first in yards allowed (270.8), second in passing yards allowed (188.0) and third in rushing yards allowed (82.8) heading into Week 7. In addition, they have yet to surrender a second half touchdown all season. Trusting of the talent this roster holds, the respect "Wink" has for his players is equally reciprocated. 

"It was really emotional when they told us we had 11 sacks," linebacker Patrick Onwuasor said postgame. "We just went out there and we were like, ‘We have to get Coach Wink . We have to put the Gatorade on him.’ So, we tried to turn him around so he couldn’t see it coming, and we had to get him real good."

Martindale will now face the No. 1 scoring offense in the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. 

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