Former Ravens TE Daniel Wilcox On How Mark Andrews Is So Productive

Former Ravens tight end Daniel Wilcox says Mark Andrews, who is closing in on the Ravens’ single-season receiving yards record, has been so productive throughout his career for a variety of reasons, from the team’s quarterback play to his physical ability to his football IQ.

Andrews, 26, has caught 93 passes for 1,187 yards this year, 15 yards shy of a new Ravens single-season receiving record (Michael Jackson, 1,201 in 1996). Andrews has also caught nine touchdown passes, one away from his career-best mark in 2019. Already selected as a Pro Bowl starter for the AFC, he figures to be an All-Pro pick as well. He’s been the best tight end in the NFL in 2021.

This season has been a breakout campaign for Andrews, but it’s hardly come as a surprise. He caught 156 passes for 2,105 yards and 20 touchdowns during his first three seasons in the league (2018-2020). So what’s been the secret sauce for Andrews? Start with the team’s quarterback play during his four years in Baltimore, Wilcox says.

“You can’t ever take this for granted, but quarterback play is huge,” Wilcox said on Glenn Clark Radio Dec. 28. “I think one thing that every tight end that came through this [team], they have never had the quarterback play that Mark Andrews is getting right now. If you’re able to get Todd Heap the ball 15 times a game, he’d catch 15 balls a game. It is what it is.”

The lion’s share of Andrews’ production has come with Lamar Jackson at quarterback. Despite the recent rough stretch for Jackson — since Week 10, he has thrown six interceptions and three touchdowns and has missed three games due to injury or illness — the pair has been one of the most productive duos in the league since 2018.

The quarterback-tight end duo that comes closest to Jackson and Andrews throughout team history is Joe Flacco and Dennis Pitta, but hip injuries limited Pitta to seven games from 2013-2015, part of Flacco’s prime. Pitta caught 224 passes for 2,098 yards and 13 touchdowns during parts of six seasons as one of Flacco’s favorite targets. Other top tight ends in team history, like Heap and Shannon Sharpe, did not have the same opportunity as Andrews and Pitta to build chemistry with one quarterback.

But it’s not just the connection with Jackson that makes Andrews so special. He is 6-foot-5 and 256 pounds, can run and has a wide catch radius, for starters.

“He just has a really great body type. When I say great body type, his arms are long enough to make the catches away from his body and he’s got phenomenal hands,” Wilcox said. “He just does a great job of being able to use his long stride to be deceptive enough to be able to pull away from people. You don’t think he’s as fast as he is. The next thing you know, you’re struggling with all your might to try to catch up to him.”

Wilcox also explained that Andrews excels in the mental side of the game, something he saw up close a couple years back. Wilcox, who caught 76 passes for 576 yards and eight touchdowns for the Ravens from 2004-2008, was a scouting intern for Baltimore during the summer of 2019. That’s when he saw Andrews prepare for a season in which he established himself as one of the best tight ends in football.

Wilcox said he noted at the time that although tight end Hayden Hurst, who was taken in the 2018 draft along with Andrews, was a better athlete than Andrews, it was Andrews who was “years ahead” on the mental side. (Hurst was still green as a full-time football player, having focused on baseball after high school.)

Andrews has long known how to manipulate defensive backs and linebackers in order to break open for his quarterback, according to Wilcox.

“He just does some really, really phenomenal things with his mind and playing the chess game of football,” Wilcox said. “He allows himself to be in position to make big plays.”

For more from Wilcox, listen to the full interview here:

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Luke Jackson

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