This became a major concern once starting tight end Dennis Pitta dislocated his hip in early August and it was thought that he would miss most, if not all of the 2013 regular season. It wasn’t a position that the Ravens expected to be scrambling at, but injuries happen and that’s why they play the games.
There was a revolving door of tight ends throughout the preseason and it continues to pretty much the same now as the Ravens have yet to find one guy can provide consistency.
First, the Ravens brought in veteran tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, who was virtually useless for the New England Patriots a year ago. Right before the Ravens cut ties with him, they brought in 34-year-old Dallas Clark for a tryout and a chance to resurrect the November of his career.
Ed Dickson was already an incumbent and formerly a starter before Pitta supplanted him, but battled a nagging hamstring injury throughout the month of August. Finally, there’s Matt Furstenburg, an undrafted free agent out of the University of Maryland who was given a nice signing bonus for a guy that was on the fringe of being released.
Currently, they’re rolling with Clark, Dickson and no. 3 tight end Billy Bajema, who has been used primarily for his blocking abilities, but you have to wonder if they will look to spice up this position soon. After all, the Ravens made their first in-season trade in franchise history the other day when they snagged Eugene Monroe from the Jacksonville Jaguars to probably overtake the struggling left tackle Bryant McKinnie.
So what can the Ravens do?
Well, for starters, they brought in Jake Ballard early last month for a workout to see if he still has any NFL value left. Clearly, if the Ravens didn’t bring him aboard then, you have to wonder what he really has to bring to the table. As far as Furstenburg goes, if he is on the practice squad, it tells me one thing: he doesn’t know the playbook, and not knowing an assignment on one or more plays can cost an offense a game.
That brings it to the guys the Ravens are rolling with in Clark and Dickson. Clark has been slightly better than Dickson, but it hasn’t been by much. Both have had struggles getting separation and getting open over the middle of the field and in the seams. Both have had trouble catching passes consistently, and have even had a few tipped passes lead to interceptions for quarterback Joe Flacco.
Both haven’t been able to make a true impact blocking downfield, especially Clark as he is virtually used as a slot receiver. Is it time to give Shiancoe a call back and say, “Hey, we messed up… want to give it a go with our organization a second time?”
It may be the right move because trotting Dickson and Clark out there when they clearly aren’t getting better could be devastating for this offense. The inability to complete passes over the middle and in the seams has turned the aerial attack into “throw it up to Torrey Smith and pray he catches it”.
That isn’t just the tight ends’ faults as the receivers have to get open and catch as well, but this position has been in dire need and must be fixed soon before the Ravens’ offensive struggles continue to mount.