The Baltimore Ravens don’t need need to worry about replacing Dennis Pitta’s production with just one TE, they can use multiple.
After coming back from two major hip injuries, bad luck struck Dennis Pitta once again. The tight end suffered another hip injury last month in OTAs. It forced the Baltimore Ravens to eventually release him.
Now the offense must replace his production. While I and many others have advocated for the team to go out and sign free agent Gary Barnidge, let’s take a step back for a minute. Yes the Ravens need a tight end to make up for the loss, but it doesn’t have to be just one.
I think a lot of people get a preconceived notion that you have to replace the player with just one other. Yes this is literally the case, but not statistically.
Even with Pitta gone, the Ravens have four other realistic options at tight end. The majority have deal with injuries, but it’s a new season with a clean slate. The Ravens can use a combination of tight ends to replace Pitta’s production.
Here’s what they need to replace:
Aside from the touchdowns, those are solid stats. Pitta led all tight ends last season in receptions. Not to mention, he was the second leading receiver on the team behind Mike Wallace. That won’t be the same for tight ends this season with the emergence of Breshad Perriman and the addition of Jeremy Maclin, but there’s still production to replace.
But who exactly will it be?
Who can replace the production?
I look at Crockett Gilmore and Ben Watson as the two main tight ends to replace Pitta’s production. I think Nick Boyle can also be in the conversation, but he’ll be used more for blocking.
Gillmore is a huge target at 6-6. He’s a matchup nightmare against virtually any linebacker or secondary player. His best season came in 2015 when he caught for 412 yards and 4 touchdowns. Unfortunately his season ended early because of a back injury. At the age of 25, Gillmore can still be a major piece for this passing game. His size along with athletic ability makes for a deadly combination. He still hasn’t played a 16-game season and if he does the production should be there.
Like Gillmore, Watson dealt with injuries last season. A torn achilles in preseason kept him out all year. Now finished up recovery, he’s looking to prove himself. The Ravens signed him to a 2-year deal after a very productive season with the Saints in 2015. Watson can be a nice complement to Gillmore and be the security blanket for Joe Flacco. Pitta led the league in receptions because Joe Flacco threw so many check-down passes. The Ravens will try to limit that this season, but Watson will still get his fare share of targets.
The best way to utilize the tight ends this season will by running the two-tight end formation. With the wide receivers on the outside, it spreads the secondary. This allows for the tight end to be matched up against a linebacker. For a guy like Crockett Gillmore, this is a mismatch every single time he’s on the field. This can make for some great looks down the middle.
With Greg Roman brought back as an offensive assistant, look for the Ravens to utilize these kind of formations to get the most out of the tight ends as possible.
The big issue here is obviously health. If these two can’t stay healthy then all of this means nothing. But if the consistency is there, the combination of tight ends can more than make up for the loss of Pitta.