The Ravens will feature a lot of young players on both sides of the ball this season and, as a result, there will be some growing pains, especially early in the season. The offensive line is full of rookies, as is the receiving core, and the two projected starting tight ends are in just their second year. The defense has a good deal of experience, but will most likely need a few young guys to step up if they want to continue to be one of the best units in the league. Needless to say, the Ravens are in a transitional stage, which is a scary place to be heading into a regular season with so many unknowns.
The sad reality is that not all of these young guys are going to be successful at the professional level. Some will be busts, some will become average players and a select few have the opportunity to become superstars. It’s hard to tell exactly which of these players will succeed and which will fail, but here are two second-year guys I think will make the Ravens happy they drafted them.
Dennis Pitta, Tight End
When the Ravens picked Dennis Pitta and fellow tight end Ed Dickson in last year’s draft, most people thought Dickson was going to be the better of the two judging solely from a talent perspective. And although Dickson is extremely talented and can make some unbelievable catches, he struggles with other important aspects of the game, most notably run-blocking. Pitta, on the other hand, is as solid as they come. He does everything well and has the potential to be a Todd Heap-like player.
Pitta didn’t see the field much last season and only recorded one catch for one yard. But with Heap gone and Dickson sidelined with a hamstring injury, Pitta is finally getting an opportunity to show what he can bring to the Ravens’ first-team offense. He led the team in receiving in the first preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles, catching four balls for 47 yards including reaching over the back free safety Kurt Coleman to haul in an acrobatic 27-yard reception.
I think that performance was just a preview of things to come from Pitta this season. He has excellent hands and can get open across the middle and down the field. With Dickson sidelined, Pitta is getting more time to become comfortable with Joe Flacco and vice versa. I can see Pitta developing into someone Flacco trusts to go to late in the game. This guy has the potential to be a huge part of the Ravens’ offense and I think he’ll turn that potential into production this season.
Terrence Cody, Defensive Tackle
What a difference a year makes. Last season, Terrence Cody arrived to camp overweight and out of shape and suffered a knee injury early on that caused him to miss about a month of play. But when he finally got on the field, he performed very well including a great showing in the playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs. All in one play, Cody caught Chiefs’ running back Jamaal Charles from behind, stripped him of the ball, which the Ravens recovered, and landed on top of Charles knocking him out of the game and crushing any hope the Chiefs had of winning.
It was that solid finish that allowed the Ravens to cut Kelly Gregg in the offseason with the assurance that they wouldn’t be downgrading at the position. Now, the job is Cody’s and he knows how much the team is relying on him to not only be a run-stopper in the middle, but also someone who can bust through the line and get to the quarterback. As opposed to last offseason, this year he showed up visibly slimmer (some people said dropped close to 50 pounds) and as in shape as he’s been since he joined the team.
Cody is more committed to learning the defensive scheme as well, which has shown in practice. He knows his own abilities and feels he’s “capable of dominating” like he did at Alabama. This is a good sign for the Ravens because Gregg was a big part of what the Ravens did defensively. If Cody can continue with the progression he’s made in the past year, I don’t see any reason why he can’t be a breakout player for the Ravens this season.
Submitted by Steve Giles