Does Quantity Equal Quality?
If quantity made a difference, the Ravens would be loaded at the tight end position. Unfortunately, a collection of warm bodies with a pulse doesn’t equate to quality.
Potentially the Ravens have three very solid young talents in the forms of Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle. All have plenty of ability yet they lack availability. Injuries and suspensions have rendered the posse insignificant. Collectively, they have played in 67 games out of a possible 112 (59.8%).
The posse has combined for a total of 107 catches for 1,069 yards and 7 TD’s. Spread that out over the course of the games in which they could have played (112), and that’s almost 1 catch per game for under 10 yards.
Two-year vet Darren Waller is not a stranger to suspensions and the converted wide receiver is still a bit of a project at tight end. But like Gillmore, Williams and Boyle, he does show promise and has the vertical leap, high-point skills and top-end speed to create mismatches downfield. It’s incumbent upon the coaching staff to harness his raw talent.
All of which brings us to the two established veterans – Dennis Pitta and Ben Watson. Watson never played a down during the 2016 season, while Pitta made a miraculous comeback after most considered his career to be all but over. From Super Bowl 47 through 2015 Pitta played in just 7 games. In 2016 he played in all 16 and that’s a testament to his mental and physical toughness.
Pitta has a $7.7M cap charge in 2017 with a $5.5M salary. Watson is schedule to earn $3M and carries a $4M cap figure. The Ravens could try to negotiate a new deal with Pitta to lower his salary but after a league high 86 catches at the tight end position, Pitta and his agent might dig their heels in and refuse to budge. Watson will try to bounce back from an Achilles tear but he will turn 37 during the 2017 season.
Some have argued that if the Ravens are sincere in providing Joe Flacco with more support, how could the team even consider parting ways with Pitta? After all it’s clear that he’s Flacco’s go-to guy.
Yet once again, quantity doesn’t equal quality.
A closer look at Pitta’s numbers suggests that he really wasn’t a playmaker for Flacco. He was more of a safety valve, the beneficiary of far too many premature check-downs.
Of all tight ends in the league with 20+ catches, Pitta ranked 39th in yards per catch (8.5). Twenty-eight tight ends had more TD catches while 84 tight ends had a better catch:1st-Down ratio than Pitta. And perhaps the most daunting of the Pitta stats, despite being targeted 121 times by Flacco, the former BYU Cougar had just 4 catches for 20+ yards. Of all tight ends with 20+ catches, 26 had more big plays than Pitta.
Yes, he’s a Flacco favorite and a fan favorite, but unless Pitta takes another pay cut and the Ravens still feel compelled to go with a veteran given the lack of dependability from the other four guys, Watson, if healthy, is the better choice.
The kickoff was once one of the more exciting plays in the NFL. Think of some of the electrifying returns that Ravens have had over the years from the likes of Jermaine Lewis, Yamon Figurs, David Reed and of course Jacoby Jones.
But as this Tweet suggests, the play is dying a slow death in the NFL given the new kickoff rules.
The NFL’s attempt to reduce kick returns has been pretty successful: pic.twitter.com/9Yge6gbWCs
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) February 16, 2017
You may have noticed during Super Bowl 51 that Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski lofted a few high kickoffs angled towards the sideline. Each pinned the Falcons inside their own 20. It’s a copycat league so don’t be surprised to see more of the same around the league in 2017. That said, imitation while flattering, doesn’t assure the same success as that of Gostkowski. The result at times, on misfired kicks, could become opportunities for more big returns.
We can only hope.
And lastly, if the return of the big returns does happen, M&T Bank Stadium will capture it on scoreboards that promises to be huger than the POTUS’ best YUGE! Here’s Garrett Downing’s FINAL DRIVE episode that features the scoreboard upgrade.
(Images courtesy of BaltimoreRavens.com)