At the start of the 2016 season, it looked like the Baltimore Ravens may have one of the deepest tight end groups in the NFL. It started with free agent signee Ben Watson, then the unexpected and unlikely return of Dennis Pitta, followed by third year player Crockett Gillmore, who was coming off a good year in 2015. That was the top three on the depth chart and there was more talent beyond just them. Maxx Williams finished his rookie year strong, Nick Boyle got off to a good start before being suspended to end the 2015 season, and the team was moving Darren Waller to tight end because of his height and ability to play the position. But alas, this is the Baltimore Ravens, nothing is that easy.
Nick Boyle was suspended 10 games to start the 2016 season and Waller was also suspended four games to start the year. That's not all. On the first play of the third game of the preseason, Ben Watson tore his Achilles, ending his season before it even began. After that, Maxx Williams season ended two months ago when he suffered a knee injury that required surgery and he was placed on injured reserve. Gillmore has missed the last seven games with a hamstring injury. When you add it all up, it meant that a guy who was just coming off two dislocated hip injuries, a guy that was told he should never play again in Dennis Pitta, would start as the number one tight end for all of the 2016 season something I believe the Ravens never wanted in the first place. Hence why they signed Watson.
While Pitta will never be the player he could've been, his play this season has been nothing short of inspirational, and slowly but surely he is gaining reinforcements. Boyle and Waller returned from their suspensions and now it looks like that Crockett Gillmore may be on the verge of returning as soon as this week in Pittsburgh.
After missing weeks of practice, Gillmore returned to the practice field last week after attempting to come back a few weeks ago until the hamstring acted up again. Another good sign for Gillmore is according to The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zreibec, Gillmore is no longer listed on the injury report and has practiced fully. That is very encouraging news for a Ravens offense that needs his talents and would be a big help to a tight end core that looked so strong coming into the season.
While Gillmore's role may be reduced a bit because of the emergence's of Boyle and Waller, there is no doubt that when Gillmore is on the field he is a viable target and weapon in the passing game for quarterback Joe Flacco. Standing at 6 feet and 6 inches tall and 260 pounds, Gillmore is a strong athlete with great hands and the ability to use his strength to carry would be defenders for extra yardage. He is also a viable big target in the red zone and an exceptional blocker in the running game.
If Gillmore does indeed return this Sunday in Pittsburgh, the Ravens must find a way to get him involved in the offense because of what he can do to help improve a unit that lacks an identity and currently does not have a strong tight end core. While Crockett Gillmore's Ravens career has been hampered by injuries, his return could very well come at a great time for a Ravens team that could use any sort of help on the offensive side of the football with two games remaining in the 2016 season especially coming into a game this Sunday where the stakes are at an all time high.
Gillmore is a very talented player and if the Ravens find a way to implement him into the offense, that will make things easier for Pitta and help fully take the pressure off on a guy who has been carrying the load at the tight end position after being told he would never play again.