For the Baltimore Ravens, the tight end position largely remains up in the air with their most recent decision to part ways with veteran tight end Visanthe Shiancoe.
This has to be good news for undrafted free agent Matt Furstenburg as he is one of the guys still vying to make his claim on one of the final spots on the 53-man roster.
It appears as if the former Maryland Terrapins tight end has surpassed the first round of cuts as the NFL rosters must be minimized to 75 players by Aug. 27. The rosters will be finalized Aug. 31, and if you’re anything like me you’re not alone in thinking Furstenburg will have a role on this team going forward.
The 24-year-old’s stood out on several fronts, albeit against back-ups, that have turned the heads of the Ravens coaching staff. Furstenburg has shown the ability to block at the point of attack, good speed for a tight end and consistent hands in the passing game. His ability to block successfully is ultimately what could help him earn that third or fourth tight end spot if the Ravens so choose to keep that many.
In front of Furstenburg are veterans Billy Bajema, Dallas Clark and Ed Dickson.
Bajema is a guy who doesn’t really offer much on the receiving side, but he provides a solid blocker on the edge for running backs to hit the sticks right off of his butt. Clark joined the Ravens halfway through the preseason and is still in the process of picking up the offense. Clark offers a much more viable pass-catching option out of the slot, yet he lacks the strength and athleticism to offer any significant contributions blocking for the ground game. Dickson displays the most promise out of this group as he has been at the helm of the tight end position before when quarterback Joe Flacco was slinging passes. However, Dickson’s inability to snag passes consistently along with his lack of blocking ability and inability to stay healthy, he is battling a nagging hamstring injury currently, has kept the door open for guys like Furstenburg.
Cutting Shiancoe points to signs that Dickson may just be resting up for the season-opening contest against the Denver Broncos, but that doesn’t eliminate Furstenburg from playing in some packages.
The Ravens have looked to using fourth-round pick Kyle Juszczyk as a possible H-back to block off the edge as well, yet he has struggled handling blitzers thus far in the preseason. The former Harvard Crimson fullback was used primarily as a tight end in college but experienced some backfield action throughout his career. The Ravens typically have an allegiance to their draft picks over undrafted guys, but given Furstenburg’s solid outings thus far, he may be making an argument for time in two-or-three-tight end sets.
With the Ravens set to take on the St. Louis Rams in both clubs’ final preseason game, look for Furstenburg to either crumble under the pressure or open the door of opportunities for this Ravens offense.
My projection is that he will at least make the practice squad, pending a solid performance Thursday.