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Tight Ends Will Have Bigger Role In Season's Second Half

Posted Nov 5, 2015

Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle are in line for more, and could be joined by Dennis Pitta.


With the Ravens losing top wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. and still without first-round pick Breshad Perriman, Baltimore will lean more heavily on its young tight ends in the second half of the season.

Head Coach John Harbaugh has commented several times about how much he likes the group, made up of second-year starter Crockett Gillmore and rookies Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle.

Now it’s time for them to help pick up the slack.

Quarterback Joe Flacco targeted his tight ends just 19 percent of the time through the first eight games. That’s about to change.

“Even without losing Steve, we felt like the tight ends were going to take on a bigger and bigger role, and I think that’s going to happen either way,” Harbaugh said. “I think those guys are making plays, and they need to make even more plays than they’re making.”

Gillmore is fourth on the team in receptions with 20 for 242 yards. He’s tied with Smith, for now, with three touchdowns.

While Gillmore hasn’t made a couple critical late-game touchdown grabs in Denver and Arizona, he’s been one of the team’s top offensive playmakers. Without Smith, Gillmore may take top billing in the pass-catching department due to his brutal physicality. Like Smith, he’s very difficult to bring down.

Williams has hauled in 12 passes on 19 targets for 108 yards and Boyle has 11 catches on 13 targets for 93 yards. Gillmore will get more looks his way, but the Ravens particularly need more growth from their two rookies.

As a second-round pick and regarded as the top tight end in the rookie class, Williams entered with Rookie of the Year buzz – quite a high bar. He has struggled with injuries throughout training camp and the regular season, and an ankle/knee injury held him out of Week 7’s game in Arizona.

Upon returning last week against San Diego, Williams saw just three of 69 offensive snaps.

Williams wasn’t frustrated by the injuries or his lower production than some may have expected.

“I didn’t catch that many balls in college,” Williams said. “You’ve just got to make the most of the opportunities that come your way. You come to work every day and grind as much as you can.”

Boyle may be the biggest, and most pleasant, surprise of the rookie class so far. The fifth-round pick out of Delaware saw 24 snaps against the Chargers and made one catch for 15 yards.

Part of the reason Boyle has seen more snaps in some games is that he’s more of a true inline tight end, which gives him a chance to be in more base formations. While known for his blocking, Boyle has shown soft hands and been relied on in some tough situations, including a fourth down in Pittsburgh.

When asked about the tight ends’ role increasing, Boyle said “it’s awesome.”

“I don’t want to say it’s accepting a challenge, but it’s something we know we can do,” he said. “It’s something we look forward to.”

Boyle said he’s a little surprised by how much he’s been targeted by quarterback Joe Flacco, but not that he’s performed well when given the chance. He has confidence in his route-running and hands.

“I’m definitely more comfortable with everything, especially away games,” Boyle said. “The noise was actually a huge factor in Denver and I never had something like that. I’m more comfortable in any game and any situation.”

The wild-card is tight end Dennis Pitta. If he’s going to return at all this season, Pitta will have to make his mind up early next week when his 21-day practice window ends. He could suit up against the Jacksonville Jaguars and provide even more firepower to the tight end corps.

 

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