When the loss of Anquan Boldin became a certainty, the common refrain amongst Ravens fans was, “at least we still have Dennis Pitta.” Flacco’s 2012 security blanket, the 28-year-old tight end reeled in 61 passes, seven for touchdowns.
All it took was one collision in the back of the end zone to end Pitta’s season. In the blink of an eye, Flacco lost his best friend and top target for the entire 2013 campaign.
As the Ravens begin life without Pitta, it’s searching time.
When you look at the roster, with the exception Torrey Smith, who is going to take advantage of the opportunities underneath? With the pass rush nearing, who will Flacco be able to throw to with confidence that the chains will be moved?
Ray Rice is your speed guy, but who takes over the roles of Boldin, and now, Pitta?
Ed Dickson has, at times, shown the ability to catch passes in traffic, so he’ll be primed for a breakout year with routes in the middle, lining up from the slot or from the traditional tight end position. Dickson will have to earn the trust of Flacco, who targeted him just 33 times in 2012, compared to 94 for Pitta (via). Although the Dickson-Flacco relationship may be a work in progress, the former Oregon Duck has been there for his quarterback at times in the past. If you need your memory jogged, watch the video below of nearly ten minutes of Ed’s catches via YouTube account, mostvaluableravensfan:
Now Dickson will just have to prove he can be that guy consistently.
The new Number 81, Visanthe Shiancoe, might just be the asset that Flacco and Jim Caldwell need to construct the all-important two-tight end offense yet again. He’s going to be battling for the job with veteran Billy Bajema and undrafted rookie Matt Furstenburg, but Shiancoe should gain the edge if he works on his chemistry with Flacco early. According to yesterday’s tweet from the Ravens official Twitter account, the relationship got underway almost immediately.
Limited due to a severe hamstring injury last year, Shiancoe hasn’t caught a pass since 2011. Taking the extra reps will undoubtedly be crucial heading into the season. Big years aren’t foreign to the 33-year old though, as he caught 11 touchdowns in 2009 while playing with Brett Favre in Minnesota.
Is Shiancoe the answer? Is Furstenburg going to have a big camp/preseason and beat out two veterans? Will Bajema take advantage of injury and become Flacco’s veteran option?
What was before a somewhat “locked” battle, the tight end race has now become one of the key positions to watch in the preseason.