So, we’ve heard from ESPN’s Ed Werder – Dennis Pitta’s return to the Ravens is “closer than ever” – and the word on the street I am hearing is that it is actually just weeks away – like returning to practice as early as after the Pittsburgh game. That’s this close in football terms. He could be back for the Vikings or Lions game it appears.
Dennis Pitta, who is of course the Ravens tight end/Joe Flacco’s best friend/go-to receiver who was injured during a training camp scrimmage and thought, initially, to be out for the season will be back this year – but only if the Ravens are playing relevant football at that time.
If the Ravens lose the next two games to the Jets and Steelers, both of which they will likely be favored to win, don’t expect the Ravens to rush Pitta back with a 4-8 record and then-likely meaningless games left on the road against the Bengals and Lions and at home against the Patriots.
Instead they will probably submarine him for the rest of the season and try to get him fully healthy.
But this writer is pressing the button on the Ravens Game Prediction Machine that has them winning both of those games, then beating the Vikings at home, then getting blown out of the stratosphere on the road by the Lions in what may end up being Megatron’s greatest-ever single game receiving performance. End record result: 7-7 with two games left and a chance to finish 9-7 and luck into the playoffs if the other 6th-seed contenders also fail, and the Bengals take the final game of the season off to rest their starters for the playoffs.
The point is that Pitta could be very useful against a Lions team they will have to trade home runs with to have any chance of competing with, a Vikings team they need to beat, and a Patriots team they have to beat and against whom Pitta will be utterly essential.
When Pitta suffered the hip injury the Ravens designated him “Injured Reserve Designated to Return” on September 4th, and that meant that Pitta had to be off the roster for games through at least week 8. That has come and gone.
On October 22, Pro Football Talk reported that Pitta was “working out” though he wasn’t ready to return. Werder’s report led to speculation that Pitta needed about a month before getting back on the field. So that’s why a return after the Steelers game makes sense.
The question is which Dennis Pitta will be on the field? Terrell Suggs, after suffering his serious injury last season, was rusty in his first game back and never quite returned to being a dominating player until this season, though at times he did play well.
Pitta will have missed the entire year, will have a depleted offensive line to buy Flacco time to throw to him, and will probably be pushed around a lot more than he is used to when he does hit the field.
All of that is normal, but the Ravens really need the old Dennis Pitta (of last year) back – the guy who got open over the middle like he had a hall pass to be there, the guy who made circus catches like he was under contract to Ringling Brothers. The problem is that this isn’t likely to be who shows up.
More than likely Pitta will be slower given that he missed most of training camp, and not as physical as he might be under normal circumstances. He might also miss a block or two as well, or drop a pass or two or three.
That is to be expected because he hasn’t been around, but the Ravens have to think that even a rusty Pitta will be galaxies better than the combination of Dallas Clark/Billy Bajema/Ed Dickson.
Though Clark has played well in spurts- including a one-handed grab on fourth down in the Bears game to keep the Ravens alive, he’s not the game-changer Pitta is.
Clark also seems to disappear for long stretches of games. Bajema blocks, sporadically, at times, and little else, and is otherwise very limited in his abilities. Dickson played horribly to start the season, with mental mistakes and dropped balls galore, but has improved since then to be at least a mediocre tight end who has had a few catches in games for Flacco. But that’s about it. He’s no star.
If Pitta can be anything resembling the guy he has been since becoming Flacco’s mainstay up the middle over the past few seasons, the Ravens can certainly use the help and the ability to find receivers Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones a lot more open, and perhaps some running lanes too when linebackers have to respect Pitta.
That could bode well for the Ravens chances, while needing some luck and some help, to even have a chance to sneak into the playoffs.