The Baltimore Ravens offense was dealt their second most devastating blow, behind the season-ending injury to left tackle Ronnie Stanley, when they lost tight end Nick Boyle for rest of the year after he suffered a torn ACL in their Week 10 loss to the New England Patriots last season. The seventh year veteran is one of if not the best blocking tight ends in the league and an integral part of the team’s offensive success in both the running and passing game.
Boyle had a minor cleanup procedure last month which has sidelined him for the entire preseason. During his Monday press conference, Head Coach John Harbaugh provided an update on his rehab process and expressed some optimism about potential return date.
“He’s making progress,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a knee. It was a serious injury. He’ll be back as soon as he can be. We’re still very hopeful for the opener, but we just have to see.”
“The good thing is, we have other options. I like the way our tight ends are coming along. We’ve got depth at receiver when those guys come back. We’ll be able to put a good offense out here if he doesn’t make it. If he does make it, it’ll be great.”
Those ‘other options’ at tight end that Harbaugh was referring to include third-year pro Josh Oliver, veteran Eric Tomlinson and rookie Ben Mason. Oliver, who was acquired via trade from the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason, has looked good as a pass catcher during both training camp and the preseason. Against the Carolina Panthers this past Saturday he led the team in targets (10), receptions (7) and receiving yards (50). Tomlinson caught both of his targets for 13 yards but impressed most as a blocker. Mason has been primarily used in the backfield as a run blocker and was targeted just once in the past two weeks.
If Boyle isn’t ready to start the season but the Ravens are able to get some or most of their top receivers back from the nagging injuries that have sidelined them these past few weeks, expect offensive Coordinator Greg Roman to use more 21, 11 and maybe even 10 personnel with Mark Andrews lined in the slot as a receiver.