When the primary criticism that a rookie draws from his coach is a suggestion that he buckle up his chin strap tighter, it’s definitely a positive sign.
Baltimore Ravens rookie tight end Ed Dickson caught two passes for 26 yards during his NFL debut Thursday night in a 17-12 win over the Carolina Panthers.
Dickson kept getting his helmet dislodged whenever he was tackled after the catch.
“I thought Ed has looked good,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “I’d like to see his helmet stay on a little bit more, tying your chinstrap would be good. He did a lot of good things. A lot of things he needs to work on, both offensively and special teams, but it was a good start for Ed.”
The Ravens’ third-round draft pick was the first tight end into the game as a substitute for two-time Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap.
At this point, Dickson ranks ahead of fellow impressive rookie Dennis Pitta on the depth chart.
Team officials have been extremely impressed with the former University of Oregon standout. Dickson is expected to eventually emerge as Heap’s successor down the road.
The athletic 6-foot-4, 250-pounder is regarded as an excellent prospect as an all-around tight end.
As a blocking presence, though, Dickson could stand for some improvement.
The receiving aspect of his game is far more advanced.
“I thought he held up as a blocker,” Harbaugh said. “He acquitted himself well. He can get better, but I thought he did a good job.”
A consensus All-Pac-10 selection last season, Dickson concluded his career with 124 receptions for 1,557 yards and a dozen touchdowns to rank first among tight ends on the Ducks’ all-time receiving charts.
Last season, Dickson caught 42 passes for 551 yards and six touchdowns.
“I don’t limit myself to only passing or only blocking tight end,” Dickson said. “I try to work on the things that I need to work on. There’s going to come times where we have to do more blocking than usual because we’ve got great running backs.”
The Ravens employed a three tight end set against Carolina with Heap, Dickson and Pitta all in the game at the same time.
Running such an alignment would have been pretty much impossible last season when Heap played virtually every snap with L.J. Smith almost constantly hurt.
“We’ve got a good young group,” Heap said. “Both of these young guys, they’re learning on the fly and they’ve done a great job so far. You can tell they came in with a willingness to learn, a willingness to work hard and they just keep getting better every day. I think both Ed and Dennis have made a lot of plays, and you can see their potential.
“I think we’ve got a lot of guys that can get down the field and make plays. I think we’re going to be pretty versatile. I think that’s going to be our biggest strength. If you put all three of us out there, everybody can make plays. You can see their willingness to block already. I think we’ve got a lot of threats on the field with all three of us.”
And Dickson appears to have the potential to become one of the Ravens’ top offensive players in the future.
He just needs to continue to make progress at honing his overall skills.
“I expected the hard work,” Dickson said. “I’m not a stranger of hard work. We’ve been competing hard. Harbaugh makes us compete to the max every day. I’m not stranger to hard work, so it’s everything that I expected.”