Last year, Lamar Jackson and Mark Andrews called it “streetball.”
Because every week of the Ravens’ record-breaking 2019 season, it seemed that Jackson always knew exactly where Andrews was, and Andrews always knew where Jackson was going to throw it.
A year ago, Andrews hauled in 64 receptions for 852 yards on 98 targets with 10 touchdowns — all of which were team-highs. He accomplished that while never playing more than 57 percent of the snaps in his 17 games, including the playoffs, played.
Now, one of the most in-sync duos in the NFL appears ready to get even better this season.
“It’s pretty much a combination of things,” Andrews said of the two’s relationship. “Being able to feel the game, and then, when you play with a guy like Lamar, he’s able to hit his open guys. Obviously, we have a good connection. And then (offensive coordinator Greg Roman) calling plays, scheming things up and putting us in the right position.”
Sunday against the Browns, Andrews caught five passes for 58 yards and two scores on six targets. He also played 71 percent of the offensive snaps, in large part to a major shift in personnel. The Ravens traded away tight end Hayden Hurst in the offseason, and didn’t immediately replace him on the roster. Instead, the two full-time tight ends on the roster are Andrews and Nick Boyle.
Andrews prepared for his new role in the offseason, looking to cement himself as one of the NFL’s elite tight ends.
“I ran a ton this offseason, worked out a ton,” Andrews said. “In the back of my head, I knew that my role was going to grow, and rightfully so. Third year being a tight end, it naturally kind of happens that way. It felt really well, my body feels great. I felt great out there, condition-wise, so I’m ready for it. I’m ready for the task and the more the better, for me.”
Both Jackson and Andrews have given credit to one another for each other’s success — Jackson said Sunday that Andrews was a top two tight end in the league, and he wasn’t second.
What makes them so dynamic together is how they feed off broken plays, and have a similar mindset of what to do when a play goes wrong. There was an instant chemistry between the two 2018 draft choices, one that’s only grown since then.
“Just a whole year throwing to Mark — well, two years, but I’ll just say a whole year, because it was my first full year last season,” Jackson said. “And then in camp, we got back into it. A lot of repetition on getting our chemistry down pat. He just makes my job a lot easier, like I always say.”
Andrews was unable to put a number on what percentage of passes between the two qualify as “streetball,” but it’s clear to everyone in the league that, by design or otherwise, they’re one of the most difficult tandems to stop in football.
“He’s able to see and feel where I’m going to go, and I’m able to feel where he may throw the ball or where an open spot is,” Andrews said. “So, it happens throughout the game. It’s not something that you try to do, so it’s maybe make a wrong read on a route and then I’ve got to make up for it and get open. So, stuff like that. I don’t know how often it happens, but it’s been good.”