Training camp is well underway in Baltimore and across the NFL and the injuries are starting to rack up. Unfortunately as far as the Ravens injuries are concerned (or maybe fortunately depending on how you look at it), they have all been at one position. Tight End.
The Dennis Pitta injury is well documented. Pitta, of course, dislocated and fractured his hip and, after surgery, is out for the season. He should return to full health before next season and be ready to go for the next training camp. Unfortunately that does the Ravens no good in 2013. The injury to Ed Dickson has been less well covered, but could be just as significant. Dickson suffered a slight tear of his hamstring a few days ago and after originally being described as “day-to-day” has now been downgraded to “week-to-week”. Now the Ravens are down their starting tight end, and the second tight end. If the season started today they would be relying on an aging pro whose best days are behind him in Visanthe Shiancoe.
Shiancoe can still be a productive player, but he isn’t a top flight receiving tight end like Pitta, and he isn’t as good a blocker as Dickson (nor is he as fast or athletic). Shiancoe brings a lot of experience and savvy, but make no mistake, he is still the Ravens third best tight end and a last resort starter.
In theory, Ed Dickson will be ready for the season opener and be fine for the season. That said, a hamstring tear, even a small one, is a tricky injury. It could be just as likely that he heals on time as it is that the injury lingers through the season or, god forbid, gets worse and sidelines Dickson for a good chunk of the season.
The Ravens were projected to be switching to a very tight end heavy scheme under Jim Caldwell, now those plans lie shatter on the ground. Not only are they short at TE, but they are also thin at WR. They have a ton of talent, but no sure things or proven commodities past Torrey Smith (unless you count Jacoby Jones proven inconstancy as a starter). The options for Joe Flacco to throw to keep getting slimmer.
I would almost expect to see Ray Rice spending a lot of time in the slot this year. Rice could help fill the slot receiver and move tight end role. He certainly wont play like that full time or even close, but he could spend maybe 10-15 snaps per game lined up as a receiver or shifting to a receiver role out of the backfield pre snap. Rice is arguably the leagues best back int he receiving department, so it isn’t a reach to suggest he could do it more.
My guess is the Ravens offense consists of Torrey becoming an underneath receiver, Jacoby and Deonte Thompson running the deep stuff and Ed Dickson and Ray Rice handling the slot with BErnard Pierce shouldering a big rushing role. I could be way off, but that is what the personnel is telling me.