When the Baltimore Ravens used their third and fourth round picks in the 2010 NFL Draft on tight ends, many thought it was just a matter of time before veteran Todd Heap would be out of the picture. Third round pick Ed Dickson (Oregon) and fourth round pick Dennis Pitta (BYU) had solid pedigrees, the combination of size, speed and great hands, to wrestle the reps away from Heap. The ten year veteran first made his appearance after being draft late in the first round by the Ravens in 2001, a few month's after their Super Bowl victory over the New York Giants, their opponents in last night's preseason game.
Heap became better known as the team became HBO's first entry in the series, Hard Knocks, later that summer. Over the next nine years, Heap was a fan favorite, having his name screamed after every reception. However, the injuries seemed to mount up, the stats decreased and it appeared that he was becoming less of a threat as a target as the years mounted up. At the same time, without a true outside threat, teams were able to stuff him at the line of scrimmage and even double team him to take him out of the play. Furthermore, due to offensive line issues, Heap was asked to block a lot more than the team would have liked him to.
However, 2010 is shaping up to be a much different season and Todd Heap doesn't appear to be anywhere near ready to hand over the reigns to the young kids just yet.
With the addition of Anquan Boldin as wide receiver and the emergence of Ray Rice as another option for QB Joe Flacco, Heap is now able to find himself one-on-one with a linebacker or safety and has enjoyed a resurgence n his production which especially showed last night, when he finished the game with six reception for 69 yards and one TD catch, all in just one half of the game.
In addition, the offensive line has survived on its own and allowed Todd to go out for the passes rather than staying in for pass protection and even though there continues to be issues with the offensive line, the team is confident enough to get Heap open over the middle time and time again. His hands appear to be as solid as they have ever been and he still can be counted on to make the key grab in critical games.
Last year, Heap stayed healthy and played more snaps than any other tight end in the entire league. He went over 50 catches and close to 600 yards with six TDs, after barely having similar stats for the previous two seasons combined.
Perhaps the additions in the receiving game, his own personal health and the younger competition at tight end have all combined to give Todd a sense of urgency, a renewed vigor and a challenge that has energized his spirit. No matter what the reason is, Ravens fans along with his teammates and coaches couldn't care less. Todd Heap is back!