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Could Rookie Kyle Juszczyk Help Replace Dennis Pitta?

Posted Jul 30, 2013

The fullback was used as a versatile receiving threat during his college career at Harvard.

When the Ravens lost tight end Dennis Pitta for the season with a hip injury, the focus shifted to the other tight ends on the roster. 

Ed Dickson, Billy Bajema, Matt Furstenburg and recently-signed veteran Vishanthe Shiancoe attracted most of the attention as the logical options to help make up for the loss of Pitta’s production. 

But what about rookie Kyle Juszczyk

The fourth-round fullback was a versatile receiving threat during his college career at Harvard, and he could be an option for the Ravens to use in the slot as a pass catcher. 

“I definitely see that as a possibility,” Juszczyk said when asked  about being involved in the passing game. “They told me when I came in here that I would be doing a lot of different things. I have done some of that stuff, even in this training camp. I wouldn’t be surprised if I started to do a little more of that.” 

Juszczyk has been working as the team’s starting fullback throughout the early part of training camp, but the Ravens just re-signed fullback Vonta Leach Monday afternoon. Leach will be the favorite to start, as he’s a proven lead blocker and three-time Pro Bowler. 

But there could still be a valuable role for Juszczyk as a halfback/tight end. He excelled in that role in college, often splitting out wide catching passes over the middle or in the flat. 

“The thing about Kyle is he’s very, very versatile,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “He plays the fullback, but he plays I would say more the H-back-type tight end role. So, he’s your move guy.” 

Juszczyk led the Ivy League with eight touchdown receptions and led Harvard with 52 catches for 706 yards in 2012. For his career, he set the mark for all Harvard tight ends with 125 catches (6th all-time) for 1,576 yards (7th all-time) and 22 touchdowns (3rd all-time). 

He’s a natural pass catcher and is known for having reliable hands.     

“I’d probably say those are my biggest strengths, just because that’s what I excelled at most when I was in college,” Juszczyk said. “I’m familiar with that, so yeah I do think that’s an area where I could help.” 

Juszczyk fits the mold of a tight end in the receiving capacity, but he’s not built to be a player the Ravens put on the line of scrimmage. At 6-foot-1, 248 pounds, he’s undersized for the position. By comparison, Pitta is 6-foot-4, 245 pounds and Dickson is 6-foot-4, 255 pounds. 

“He’s not going to be your guy on the line of scrimmage knocking anybody off the ball – he’s 250 pounds,” Harbaugh said. “But he’s your move guy, he can kick out, he can get up on the linebacker or defensive back, and he can catch passes.” 

Now that the Ravens have Leach back in the mix, they could experiment with putting Juszczyk in some different packages. Pitta was often used in the slot, and Juszczyk could work in a similar capacity. 

Even with the addition of Leach, Juszcyk’s primary role will likely still be at fullback, as he’s making the transition to becoming a true lead blocker. The team will give him plenty of opportunities throughout training camp and the preseason, and they want to see him in a variety of roles. 

“It’s good to have two fullbacks, and we haven’t had two fullbacks,” Harbaugh said. “We normally do in training camp – have two, and throughout the course of the preseason, it will be valuable for us. There will be plenty of reps for both of those guys. We’ll find ways to get them on the field.”

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