Guest Post By: Cody Colston
1 – a : a sudden overpowering fright; also : acute extreme anxiety
b : a sudden unreasoning terror often accompanied by mass flight
c : a sudden widespread fright concerning financial affairs that results in a depression of values caused by extreme measures for protection of property (as securities)
2 – slang : one that is very funny
3 – state of Ravens fans following Dennis Pitta’s injury
That’s right, Dennis Pitta is out for the year with a fractured hip and Ravens fans are somewhere between DEFCON 3 and DEFCON 1. Pitta, 28, caught 61 passes for 669 yards and 7 touchdowns during the regular season and caught 14 passes for 163 yards and 3 TDs during the Ravens’ Super Bowl run. Ed Dickson is now most likely to be named the starter and the Ravens have signed Visanthe Shiancoe to add depth.
How much will the loss of Pitta affect the offense?
After Anquan Boldin was traded to the San Francisco 49ers, Pitta was being set up to fill his role in the offense, a strong, third-down, possession receiver, which he was last year, but even more so. Last season, Pitta was targeted 113 times in 21 games, the third most behind Boldin (148 targets) and Torrey Smith (135 targets), respectively. Pitta caught 75 of those targets, a 66.4 catch percentage, which was second among Ravens’ receivers with at least 40 targets, behind Ray Rice (97 targets, 69 catches, 71.1%), but ahead of Boldin (87 catches, 58.8%), Smith (60 catches, 44.4%), Jacoby Jones (67 targets, 35 targets, 52%), and Ed Dickson (41 targets, 27 receptions, 65.9%). With Boldin gone and Pitta injured, that leaves Dickson, Jones, Deonte Thompson, and other receivers to pick up the slack.
Pitta will also be missed off the field as much as he’s missed on the field. Pitta is known as Flacco’s best friend, their wives are also good friends and, as Peter King reported, Flacco was “looking disconsolate” after news broke on Pitta’s injury. Dickson understands Joe’s and Pitta’s connection, saying, “…it’s tough…You lose a brother like that…Him and Joe’s chemistry, I have to try to get to that level of him and Joe where they are.”
The big question is though, “How much will the offense change?” Not much is my guess. I said last week that the Ravens will likely go with more two tight end sets because of Pitta and Dickson, this is still probable. The Ravens drafted H-back Kyle ”Juice” Juszczyk, added undrafted rookie Matt Furstenberg of Maryland, and signed veteran Visanthe Shiancoe. Juszczyk lined up in the backfield and played tight end catching 125 passes for 1,576 yards and 22 touchdowns in his four year college career and was expected to take over full back duties before the Ravens re-signed Vonta Leach.
Furstenberg (or as I like to call him, “Firstandten”) is a local guy known for his ability to stretch the field, posting a 4.62 40-yard dash; the fastest 40 of the Tight End class. He collected 60 catches for 769 and 5 touchdowns over his four year college career. Shiancoe, a ten year veteran who is originally from Maryland, didn’t catch a pass last year for the Patriots, but before that he had four consecutive years of at least 35+ catches and 400+ yards. All are capable of holding their own on the field and helping an offense, the Wide Receivers will probably be looked more to help fill the void left by Pitta.
With the two Tight End sets still an option, the Ravens could still go another direction, with a heavier focus on the run game. Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell has already shown this heavier focus on the run game after taking over for Cam Cameron. Under Cameron, the Ravens rushed a league average 25.7 times a game, not what you expect with a top tier Running Back in Ray Rice. Under Caldwell, however, the Ravens rushed 35.7 times a game and averaged 155.3 yards during those games. The emergence of Bernard Pierce could also lead to a more run oriented offense after gaining 532 yards on 108 carries last season, creating the Ravens version of a “Smash & Dash”.
The silver lining in this whole ordeal with is at the end of the year. Pitta is in a contract year and him being out may result in a cheaper signing at the end of the year and even better production afterward. Dickson is also in his contract year, meaning a lot of production could come from him, as he pursues a larger contract.
Pitta’s injury is a critical blow to the Ravens’ offense, but not crippling. General Manager Ozzie Newsome has a track record of signing quality players for cheap and getting them to preform, ex. Matt Birk, Elvis Dumervil, etc. A signing like Brandon Lloyd would help the receiving corps in a big way, but being on three different teams in three years makes me wonder about character issues. As I said last week, I want to see what the wide receivers can do; Deonte Thompson shows a lot of promise and Tommy Streeter is too athletic to not do anything.
One way or another, the void left by Pitta’s injury will be filled.