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With Logjam At Tight End, Ravens Could Get Creative With Roles

Posted Mar 30, 2017

Head Coach John Harbaugh said tight ends Nick Boyle or Maxx Williams could be used as lead blockers with the departure of fullback Kyle Juszczyk in free agency. Benjamin Watson is ‘ahead of schedule,’ and Harbaugh sees a role for everyone.

The Ravens’ open spots at wide receiver, inside linebacker, center and right tackle have been much discussed.

But what’s the plan for replacing Pro Bowl fullback Kyle Juszczyk?

That issue could be solved by another question mark.

The Ravens have a logjam at tight end with six currently on the roster, and Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh is thinking creatively about how to possibly use a couple of his tight ends to fill the gap.

“We plan to use tight ends, obviously, because we have tight ends,” Harbaugh said at Tuesday’s league meetings. “And they’re all versatile players.”

Harbaugh said the Ravens could use third-year tight end Nick Boyle (6-foot-4, 260 pounds) or Maxx Williams (6-4, 257) as lead blockers.

Boyle seems like the more likely candidate. He served mostly as a blocking tight end after returning from a 10-game suspension last season, and can maul defenders. He also brings the threat of being a receiver, similar to Juszczyk.

Williams played in just four games last season and eventually landed on injured reserve due to a knee injury, which he is currently rehabbing. He also is a very capable blocker.

Harbaugh also said running back Lorenzo Taliaferro will be in the mix. He has had a limited role at running back during his first three injury-plagued (foot) seasons, and began his college career at Coastal Carolina as a fullback. He has the mentality and size (6-0, 225) to be a bully up front.

“Those are all the options. Competition will do it,” Harbaugh said. “Lorenzo can be a swing fullback and big back. Nick and Maxx could lead block for sure.”

The Ravens could also address the fullback position in the draft. They selected Juszczyk, who is now a San Francisco 49er, in the fourth round in 2013.

When it comes to tight end, the Ravens are in wait-and-see mode to see how it shakes out.

They signed veteran Benjamin Watson last offseason to be the group’s leader and downfield threat, but he tore his Achilles in the preseason. Harbaugh said Watson hasn’t been cleared to practice yet, but is “probably ahead of schedule in his rehab.”

After talking about the possibility of using Boyle and Williams as hybrid fullbacks, Harbaugh went through the rest of his group of tight ends with envisioned roles they could have in the offense.

“Crockett [Gillmore] on the line. Dennis is kind of a U-back, H-back kind of guy as a chain mover,” Harbaugh said. “Ben is really the consummate tight end; he’s done a little bit of everything. … Darren Waller, he’s your downfield threat, big body, immense amount of talent.”

Harbaugh said competition will sort out the tight end position. The players who play the best are going to play the most.

“I just feel really good about all those guys,” Harbaugh said. “It’s going to be great for our fans to watch the tight end battle in the offseason and training camp. It’s going to really be worth watching.”

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