Baltimore Ravens’ Tight End Dilemma Tightens


During their titanic struggle with the increasingly formidable Cleveland Browns, the Baltimore Ravens encountered the worst of their worst case scenarios; their Pro Bowl Tight End Dennis Pitta went down with an injury.  Pitta wasn’t taken out by a monumental collision with a speedy Middle Linebacker or the mammoth body of an offensive lineman falling on him in a pile; he was simply running when it happened.

Pitta reinjured his right hip, the one he had surgically repaired after it was dislocated and fractured last year. That injury led to Pitta being placed on the Disabled List and effectively ended his season.

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Unfortunately for Joe Flacco and the Ravens, Pitta has again dislocated and fractured the hip. Again, it has been surgically repaired and again Pitta’s season has come to an end.

As a result of the injury, the Ravens promoted practice squad Tight End Phillip Supernaw to the active roster. Promoting Supernaw, who played for the Houston Texans for two years, primarily on their practice squad, made sense because he is familiar with Gary Kubiak’s offensive system.  Supernaw, however, is an uncertain commodity. He certainly has the size the Ravens want (6’5”, 248 lbs) but he failed to distinguish himself in his two years with the Texans and he didn’t do much to impress the Ravens during this years’ training camp and Pre-season. So, the Ravens decision to promote Supernaw rather than pursuing a more experienced free agent  Tight End might come back to bite them.

“Despite their recent moves, the Ravens appear to be teetering on the edge of disaster.” — Ken Jackson

In a related move, the Ravens signed unemployed Tight End Emmanuel Ogbuehi to fill Supernaw’s spot on the practice squad. Ogbuehi is slightly undersized (6’2”, 230 lbs) and built more like a Linebacker than a Tight End. He was cut from the Browns practice squad earlier this month and prior to his release, Ogbuehi spent a few seconds with both the Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins, mostly on their practice squads, in training camp or on reserve-future contracts. After failing to make Washington’s roster, he was signed to the Miami Dolphins’ practice squad, where he was used primarily as a Fullback.

Despite their recent moves, the Ravens appear to be teetering on the edge of disaster. Their new offensive scheme is Tight End dependant. It features increased emphasis on double Tight End sets and involves them heavily in the passing game. Two skillful Tight Ends with a fair amount of NFL experience are essential in this kind of scheme. However, the Ravens have decided to use developmental players and hope they perform well.

“Pitta’s injury has changed everything.” — KF Jackson

Uncertainty at the Tight End position is the last thing Coach John Harbaugh and his Ravens need as they try to supplant the Cincinnati Bengals as the AFC North Champions. Yet, the fog of uncertainty continues to thicken with the moves made this week. Uncertainty swirls around their 31 years old, somewhat injury prone starter, Owen Daniels. Will he remain healthy? Will he wear down as the season grows older? Will he be able to match Pitta’s production?

The thick, gray fog of uncertainty also hangs ominously around the Ravens’ two inexperienced understudies (one is a rookie and the other has one non-playing year in the league). It covers the less than impressive, undersized practice squad addition that might be more Fullback than Tight End. It envelopes the entire Ravens’ Offense; making all of us wonder if these guys can block, catch and protect the Ravens 100 million dollar man, Joe Flacco? No one knows and that is exactly why there is so much consternation about these roster moves.

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  • Dennis Pitta and Owen Daniels gave the Baltimore Ravens stability at the Tight End position. They made us feel comfortable and confident about their ability and performance. They could be counted on to make tough catches, unleash devastating blocks to spring Running Backs and clear paths for Wide Receives downfield.  But Pitta’s injury has changed everything. Certainty has been replaced with uncertainty and doubt has replaced confidence.

    Until Crockett Gilmore and Phillip Supernaw prove themselves on the field, the Baltimore Ravens and Ravens Nation will hold their collective breath.  And if the they prove to be inadequate, insufficient, unproductive or unreliable, the Ravens just might have to bring back Vonta Leach and use Kyle Juszczyk  as the second Tight End.