Late Saturday afternoon, reports started to circulate that Dennis Pitta had suffered a dislocated hip during the first full contact practice of the year. Reporters started to claim that Pitta would miss at least the Ravens' first game against the Denver Broncos, but later reports started to paint an ever grimmer picture. It has now been confirmed that Pitta suffered a fractured hip, resulting in immediate, season ending surgery.
Dennis Pitta has long been considered Joe Flacco's go-to guy with 61 receptions for 669 yards and seven touchdowns last year in the regular season. He added on another 14 receptions for 163 yards and 3 more touchdowns during the Ravens' magical post season run. Pitta, known for his toughness, hands, and chemistry with Flacco, was expected to take on an even larger role this season with Anquan Boldin being traded to the San Francisco 49ers for a 6th round draft choice.
That being said, here are the five steps for the Ravens to go through to try to recover from such a huge loss.
Step One: Resign
Earlier this summer, the Ravens were forced to cut Vonta Leach after failing to renegotiate his contract to lessen the cap hit. Ever since then, the Ravens have been making efforts to resign him, although he has also been courted by the Miami Dolphins and New York Giants. Reports started coming out before the weekend that he had decided to return to the Ravens, but now the Ravens need him more than ever. Putting him back at fullback would give the Ravens the ability to keep 4th round pick Kyle Juszczyk, a fullback/ tight end/ H-back, at the TE spot. Juszczyk, coming in at 6' 1" and 248 lbs, had 52 receptions for 706 yards and 8 touchdowns his senior year at Harvard.
Step Two: Try Out
The Ravens now have one less tight end in their camp than they had originally anticipated for. It is now up to Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh to bring in a cheap, experienced veteran to at the very least be another warm body for camp. Visanthe Shiancoe, a 33 year old tight end who has played for the Giants, Vikings, and Patriots, was already visiting the Ravens before Pitta's injury. With a career total of 243 receptions for 2,677 yards and 27 touchdowns, he is clearly a serviceable player. It does not have to be Shiancoe though, as any veteran would work right now.
Step Three: Wait
The Ravens have always had a next-man-up mentality, so they are never taken off guard by anything. The Ravens simply need to let the players on the roster like Ed Dickson, Billy Bajema, Matt Furstenburg, and Kyle Juszczyk have their chance to step up and fill the void. Allowing them to build a relationship with Flacco is key, and Dickson has already been the starting TE in the past. Give these players a chance to play throughout camp and into the pre season, and see what they are made of.
Step Four: Reevaluate
Once step three has been completed, the Ravens are going to need to look where they stand. The two tight end set is key to the Ravens offense, as it gives flexibility in both the run and passing game, as well as giving Joe Flacco more ability to audible and run the hurry up. If the rookies or veterans step up and fill the void behind Dickson, then great. Ozzie Newsome scrutinizes every single play from practice, so nobody knows what these players are capable better than the Wizard of Oz.
Step Five: Act Accordingly
Ideally, by this time a pass catching TE has stepped up into the number two role. The Ravens offense is in an even bigger state of limbo, however, for their number two wide receiver is up for grabs with players like Jacoby Jones, Deonte Thompson, and Tandon Doss all competing for it. If the Ravens feel as though their offense needs somebody form the outside to help offset the losses of Boldin and Pitta, then Ozzie will do what he does best: find bargains. They could look for a receiver like Brandon Lloyd or Steve Breaston or address tight end with a player like Tony Moeaki from the Kansas City Chiefs, with reports claiming he is on the trading block.
Whatever the Ravens do, it is important to let the situation play out and not make any brash decisions.