Ed Dickson didn't want it this way.
He'd rather earn the starting job with his play on the practice field.
As it is, he's stepping into the No. 1 tight end role due to a devastating hip injury to Dennis Pitta. With Pitta sidelined for the entire 2013 season, Dickson knows his teammates will be depending on his play to mirror that of his counterpart's.
"You hate to get an opportunity in this fashion, but you have to relish the opportunity, because it doesn't come by that often," Dickson said after Sunday's practice. "The team needs me to step up. They need other guys to step up and make those plays. And with that said, it doesn't start when we start playing games. It starts tomorrow in practice. It started today in practice, and we build on the things we've been building on every day."
It's not like Dickson lacks experience. In 44 career games played, Dickson has been credited with 30 starts, mostly because the Ravens typically open games in two-tight end sets. In 2011, Dickson caught 54 passes for 528 yards and five touchdowns -- better than Pitta's total of 405 yards and three touchdowns.
But over time, it seemed quarterback Joe Flacco grew fonder of Pitta as a pass-catcher and started preferring him at the position. Pitta saw his targets jump from 56 in 2011 to 93 in 2012, while Dickson's decreased from 89 to 33. That said, it's not like Dickson's some bum being thrown into Pitta's spot.
He certainly can hold his own.
"My expectations before the season, coming into the season, were to contribute and help this team get back to where we were last year, and that’s winning the Super Bowl," Dickson said. "I wanted my production to go up. And how do you get your production to go up? You have to prove out here in practice each and every day that you’re the guy, and you can get the job done. It was high expectations for the whole group, and that’s just the standard that our [tight ends] coach, Wade Harman, put on that room – for us to go out there and do everything that we have to do as a tight end group and get everything done."
Dickson said he'll work on developing a better rapport with Flacco in the coming weeks. He recognized Flacco and Pitta's close friendship, joking to reporters that, "They eat breakfast and everything together." Though he's not looking to replace Pitta in that capacity, Dickson acknowledged the need to work harder on being on the same page with his quarterback.
"That chemistry has to come from a different bond. You’ve seen it with Joe and [Todd] Heap, and you’ve seen it with Dennis and Joe," Dickson said. "So, I want to get a little bit on that level. I’m not trying to replace Dennis. I went to Joe and said, ‘I’m not trying to replace Dennis,’ as being his friend. I just want to get closer to Joe and build that chemistry, because it will help on the field."
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