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Mark Andrews happy NFL banned hip drop tackle, expects Ravens to utilize more two TE sets in 2024 with Isaiah Likely

In case the last year's events haven't informed you, we're in the age of the tight end.

History books might gloss over this reality, instead deferring to the generation's best (Travis Kelce) to tell the story. But Buffalo's selection of Dalton Kincaid in 2023 and Las Vegas' choice of Brock Bowers in the first round the past two Aprils should tell the story: Offenses are looking to create advantages with the tight end. And the position is poised to take off in 2024 and beyond.

Count the Baltimore Ravens among them. After relying heavily on Mark Andrews over the last five years, Baltimore discovered it had another worthy player at the position once Andrews went down with an injury. His name: Isaiah Likely.

Expect to see them on the field together more in 2024 as part of offensive coordinator Todd Monken's new wrinkle in a scheme that saw Lamar Jackson win NFL MVP last season.

"It's going to be special," Andrews said of Baltimore's increased emphasis on using 12 personnel, via the team's official transcript. "When you have two guys that are dynamic, [there will be] mismatches all over the field -- it doesn't matter where you put us. That's tough to game-plan for. [We're] both guys that love to play ball, love to compete, and it's going to be fun.

"Really, our whole tight end room is special right now, and I'm excited about that. We're just trying to grow and get better each and every day. [I'm] very thankful to have the tight end group that we have and just continue to get better. So, it'll be fun to see how we're used."

Likely flourished in Andrews' place last season, catching 21 passes for 322 yards and five touchdowns from Weeks 12-18 as the Ravens' top option at tight end. If he'd operated in the shadows prior, maintaining such anonymity was officially impossible going forward.

"I would say, [it was] a confidence boost," Likely said on Tuesday, per the Ravens' transcript. "I mean, it definitely showed me that the game is definitely slowing down. And all offseason, [with] all the work [and] preparation I put in during the year and leading up to [that] point, it was definitely time to [have it] pay off."

Likely's jump in production appears to have awoken Baltimore's staff to a potential schematic and personnel advantage they'd yet to utilize prior to Andrews' injury. Now, they're ready to capitalize.

"You see it all across the NFL. The tight end position is growing and growing," Andrews said. "These are guys that are some of the best athletes on the field, being big, tall, strong [and] able to go get passes. I love what we're able to do. I think that we're going to continue to grow that, obviously me, 'Like' [Isaiah Likely] and everybody else. But, it's going to be fun. It's going to be fun to be able to play around, game-plan for that and just play some football. Obviously, we have Lamar Jackson, and he likes his tight ends. So, we're going to get open for him."

Andrews' biggest hurdle in the upcoming season will have nothing to do with scheme or usage. He only needs to stay healthy, which has been a struggle in the past.

Luckily for Andrews, the NFL is trying to help him and many other ballcarriers by banning the hip drop tackle -- the same tackle that caused his injury in 2023 -- much to the chagrin of some former players.

Andrews understandably believes it's for the best.

"I think it's just sometimes part of the game. I'm always an advocate for making the game safer," he said on Tuesday. "[When] you look at the last maybe five years, there's been a lot of big injuries with that. So, just bringing the awareness to that type of tackle I think is good. Keeping guys healthy is going to be great. Taking that tackle out of the game is not a bad thing, I don't think. I think the defenses can find a way to get around that."

Defenses will also have to find a way to stop Baltimore's two-tight end sets. Or, if Andrews and Likely have their way, they'll end up spending their Sundays chasing them from behind.

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