During Crockett Gillmore's rookie year, he continuously emphasized that he was a blocker first and receiver second. Turns out, Gillmore was playing it smart.
"I think I gave myself that role," he said. "I knew that's what was going to get me on the field the fastest."
Last year, Gillmore was competing with receiving tight ends Dennis Pitta and veteran Owen Daniels for snaps. He became the No. 2 tight end behind Daniels after Pitta suffered his second major hip injury.
Now, with Daniels gone to Denver and Pitta's health status uncertain, Gillmore is in position to be the Ravens' starting tight end and perhaps flip his block first, catch second role.
"I'll continue that [blocking], but I'll also be a split-out guy, too," Gillmore said. "I've always had in my mind that I could catch the ball. Other people may question it, but people who watched practice every day knew I could."
Gillmore caught 10 passes for 121 yards and one touchdown during his rookie regular season. He added a 21-yard touchdown against the Steelers in the divisional playoffs (both of his rookie touchdowns came against rival Pittsburgh).
The 2014 third-round pick out of Colorado State fit right into the physical AFC North, using his massive 6-foot-6 frame and Texas country strength to maul opposing defenders. He was part of the reason for the Ravens' turnaround in the running game.
Gillmore had a number of drops during last year's training camp, but clearly progressed as a receiver as the season went on. He showed very reliable hands and was a big body to bring down after the catch near year's end.
Gillmore showed off those improved receiving skills during last week's Organized Team Activities (OTAs). He made a pair of diving catches, including one with a couple defenders close in coverage. He almost hauled in a one-handed snag as well.
Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti said he expects Gillmore to catch 30 to 40 passes this season. He said that before Baltimore drafted two tight ends, however.
The Ravens will utilize second-round rookie Maxx Williams, who is known for his pass catching, as a receiving threat. They also drafted tight end Nick Boyle, who excels in blocking, in the fifth round.
Even with the rookies on board, Gillmore will get more passes his way. Williams and Boyle could take some time to adjust to the NFL game and offense.
"I'm really just getting used to the speed of this game," Gillmore said. "When I got to the pros, I wasn't the biggest guy on the field anymore. I think I developed some new skills and learned from Owen and Dennis. I hope to really utilize that this year and see where it goes."
Gillmore was already the Ravens' biggest tight end last year. Now he's even bigger.
During the offseason, Gillmore trained at former six-year center LeCharles Bentley's O-Line Performance center. Gillmore isn't an offensive lineman, but he's built like one. He added 15 pounds of muscle, and is now up to 275 pounds. That's three pounds more than outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw was listed at last year.
Gillmore said the additional muscle will help him in blocking, but it has more boosted his receiving game.
"I'm a lot stronger in and out of breaks," he said. "That was a big thing for me. I think I grew so fast that I never really developed the strength to get that quick twitch. Getting that muscle has really helped me run."
Gillmore said he hasn't set any mark for his receiving goals. He said he's never worried about stats. He's not worried about being the starter either.
"As long as we're winning, I don't care," he said. "If I needed to punt, I'd punt. It doesn't matter to me."