“Baltimore may have the deepest tight end group in the league.” - Kyle P Barber, August 27, 2016
I don’t believe I was wrong in saying that months ago. I still believe the Ravens came into the season deeper than any other NFL team at tight end, but no doubt the tight end corps prouction can be described as lackluster.
It started with the Benjamin Watson injury. A torn Achilles from a preseason contest left the Ravens one big hole. I believed the loss could be replaced with the group surrounding Watson. Looking back, how could anybody not? The depth chart showed: 1. Crockett Gillmore
2. Dennis Pitta
3. Maxx Williams
4. Nick Boyle (10 game suspension)
5. Darren Waller (4 game suspension)
Three eligible tight ends were coming back healthy; ready to produce. Crockett Gillmore in his sophomore season, really a big season for any skill position players. Dennis Pitta healthy, completing a full training camp and showing his chemistry with Joe immediately. Maxx Williams with a full season under his belt, ready to prove his second round selection.
Through the first seven games, the Ravens tight end group amounts to: 46 catches, 406 yards, one touchdown. Seven games in, this is a cause for concern. Many reasons surround the lack of production.
First, expectations were high, and a reality check was in order. Dennis and Crockett are not Gronk, Graham or Olsen. The Ravens don’t have those playmakers and believing they would transform into stars over the offseason was too much.
Second, Marc Trestman’s offense did not utilize tight ends. Often it involved weird run packages and screens, mixed with throwing short of the sticks. Quite aggravating.
Finally, the Ravens injuries to the offensive line keep Crockett Gillmore as a blocking unit rather than route-running weapon. This puts the Ravens at a disadvantage. It allows the defense to pressure the line more frequently while also changing blitz schemes, knowing one more player is capable of attacking the backfield.
What needs to change?
Health is the biggest factor now. Trestman is gone and Mornhinweg will use players to their potential. The problem though, he can’t use them when Joe isn’t protected from the front five. Rather he needs to keep a sixth and seventh blocker to help keep pressure off Joe Flacco. When/If Ronnie Stanley and Marshal Yanda come back this can open up the offense more, giving Gillmore and Pitta more chances. Also, the two lineman being back gives Joe more time, also allowing Gillmore and Pitta more time to get open.
When the line gets healthy, expect Dennis and Crockett to produce. They both are talented and Joe will get the ball in their hands when he can stay upright.