It's tough to find a silver lining in tight end Dennis Pitta's season-ending hip injury.
But if there is one, it's that it happened early enough in training camp that the Ravens still have time to forge whatever offense they want for 2013.
"The philosophy when you lose a player at this stage is that you just keep plugging," Head Coach John Harbaugh said Monday afternoon.
"Because at this stage, we're figuring out who we are anyway as an offense. We haven't made any determination three or four days into training camp what our offensive personality is going to be, because you always have to build your offense around your players. And you have to see how your players work together and what they do well individually, and who emerges."
So what are the Ravens' options? Here are some possibilities:
Next man upThe Ravens could stick to the same plan. Ed Dickson is a very capable receiving tight end and newly-signed veteran Visanthe Shiancoe is expected to be a strong red-zone threat like Pitta was. Shiancoe and quarterback Joe Flacco worked on building their chemistry after practice Monday. Everybody would simply move up the depth chart.
Lean more on the run game
Baltimore has a chance to be a very good running team this year. The offensive line is, for the most part, intact from last season with the only projected change at center, where Gino Gradkowski and A.Q. Shipley are competing to replace retired Matt Birk. The Ravens have one of the best running back duos in the league with Pro Bowler Ray Rice and emerging second-year back Bernard Pierce. Re-signing fullback Vonta Leach on Monday is a sign the Ravens are dedicated to playing some ground-and-pound football.
Spread it outPerhaps this is where the Ravens' influx of young receivers pays off. Baltimore could opt to go with more spread sets, utilizing Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones outside and using a combination of Tandon Doss, Deonte Thompson and David Reed in the middle. It's essentially subbing out a tight end and adding an extra receiver.
Use Rice in the slotOne of Rice's greatest attributes is his receiving skillset. Last season, Rice had 61 receptions for 478 yards. The year before, he had 76 catches for 704 yards. Rice could go back to that 2011 production and become more of a receiving target, perhaps motioned out into the slot more.
Flex out Kyle Juszczyk
The Ravens drafted Juszczyk to be kind of a Swiss Army knife in the offense. His strength is catching the ball. Especially with the signing of Leach, Baltimore could opt to move Juszczyk into more of a receiving role as a tight end or H-back rather than a true fullback. As a senior, Juszczyk led Harvard with 52 receptions for 706 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.