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How Dennis Pitta Would Help Offense

Posted Dec 5, 2013

If TE Dennis Pitta can play this Sunday, he’ll boost the red-zone offense and be big on third down.


The potential return of tight end Dennis Pitta this Sunday means more to the Ravens than quarterback Joe Flacco getting his BFF back.

“He is just a good player,” Flacco said.

“He’s got good body presence and a lot of things that he does well in his routes that give you a good indicator. He catches the ball, he runs well, [and] he separates. There are a lot of things that he does well. I think overall he just helps your whole offense.”

Head Coach John Harbaugh said Pitta went to New York on Tuesday to visit with doctors and determine if he’s ready to play.

Pitta has been ramping up the amount of work in practice and Harbaugh said he’s “pretty hopeful that he can play on Sunday.”

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier is on alert for Pitta to suit up.

“He’s one of those move tight ends who can be a matchup nightmare for a defense trying to cover him with a linebacker or even some safeties,” Frazier said. “He’s a very good route runner, and he’s got good hands as well. It seems like Joe really likes to get the football to him, so he presents some problems.”

Here’s where Pitta could specifically help the Ravens offense:

Red Zone

The Ravens are 24th in the NFL when it comes to scoring touchdowns in the red zone. They get in the end zone 48.7 percent of the time.

They’re often getting points thanks to kicker Justin Tucker, and rank eighth in red-zone scoring efficiency, but getting just three points instead of seven could bite them.

Pitta is a big-time red-zone target. Of his nine touchdown receptions last year, including three in the playoffs, seven came from 20 yards or within.

He has a knack for finding the end zone. During the regular season, he caught just eight passes inside the 20. Six were for touchdowns.

Third Down

Baltimore has done reasonably well on third down, converting 37.6 percent of the time (17th in the NFL). The Ravens have done especially well lately. They were 10-for-17 on third down against the Steelers last week.

Pitta should help the Ravens take another step forward in that category.

Nearly half of his receptions last year were for first downs (29 of 61) and he had the third-most first-down catches on the team behind Anquan Boldin (45) and Torrey Smith (38). Pitta had just two fewer targets on third down than Boldin last year.

Pitta has a knack for making tough catches in traffic, which helps him haul in passes when defenders are waiting to hit him right at the first-down marker.

In The Slot

With Boldin in San Francisco and Pitta out, the Ravens have had a revolving door of players in the slot, which doesn’t make life easier on Flacco. They started with Brandon Stokley and have rotated Marlon Brown, Deonte Thompson, Tandon Doss and Dallas Clark in that position.

The plan when the Ravens traded Boldin to San Francisco was to use Pitta to help fill his role, often splitting him out wide as a wide receiver. It’s a position Pitta has thrived in, and can help settle with his return.

Pitta was excellent in helping with the Ravens’ short passing game last season. Of his 83 regular-season targets, 58 were on passes thrown between one and 10 yards. He caught 42 passes for 410 yards in such situations compared to eight receptions for 185 yards on passes thrown more than 11 yards.

“He’s very very versatile in terms of the kind of routes that he can run,” Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell said.

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