When Dennis Pitta went down with a broken hand earlier this week, it was a blow to the Ravens offense. They lost one of their most consistent targets and an emerging leader.
But Pitta's absence has also created opportunities for other tight ends on the roster.
Last year's starter Ed Dickson will no longer split the first-team reps and has a chance to continue developing an improved rapport with quarterback Joe Flacco. Former practice squad tight end Davon Drew will also get more of a chance to show the coaching staff he deserves a roster spot.
"With Dennis down, I get the majority of the reps," Dickson said after Wednesday's practice. "I'm just trying to build that chemistry with Joe and get that offense gelling from the tight end standpoint.
"It's also an opportunity for the young guys and Davon Drew to step up and prove what they have."
Drew was already in competition for the third tight end spot before Pitta got hurt, but now he is working in with the starters.
"It was a big loss with Pitta going down, and I don't want anybody to get injured," Drew added. "But I try to do what I can do and step up when my name is called."
The coaching staff is also excited about seeing what they have in Drew, the team's fifth-round draft pick out of East Carolina in 2009.
"We're going to find out if Davon Drew is a player for us, and I think he is," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "Davon Drew has got all the skills; he's come so far."
At 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, Drew is a big-bodied tight end that is better suited as a blocker than a vertical threat. If Drew were to make the team as the third tight end, he would most likely be a blocker in short-yardage and goal-line situations, but he is also focused on improving as a pass catcher.
"I feel like a strength of mine is in the run game," Drew said. "I'm not the fastest guy on earth, but I feel like I can do a little bit in the passing game. I think the passing game is an area where I can improve, in terms of route running and technique."
Drew is in competition with undrafted rookies Matt Balasavage and Bruce Figgins, and recent free-agent signing Billy Bajema. The goal is for Pitta to return for the start of the regular season, so the Ravens will likely carry three tight ends on the roster like they did last season.
In order for Drew to beat out Bajema, Balasavage and Figgins for that spot, he will have to prove himself throughout the rest of training camp and preseason.
"What we really want to determine is if he can be a blocking tight end for us," Harbaugh said. "[He is a] big, strong guy, and that'll probably come down to [preseason] games as much as anything."
While Dickson is not fighting for a roster spot, he is looking to take the next step in his development. He and Pitta had breakout seasons during their first year of getting significant playing time, and Dickson finished the season with 54 catches for 528 yards and five touchdowns.
His production did fall off slightly at the end of the season as Pitta became one of Flacco's go-to targets, and Dickson had just four catches in the final three games.
But while Pitta is out for the next several weeks, Dickson is looking to make the most of the opportunity and have the offense clicking for when Pitta returns.
"Dennis is a great talent and [when] he gets healthy he is definitely going to play because the talent that he brings to the offense is like no other," Dickson said. "Right now it's just about me building that chemistry with Joe."