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Kyle Juszczyk Didn't Capitalize On Offensive Opportunity


It was early in the regular season and the Ravens were still looking for what their offensive identity would be.

That's when rookie fullback Kyle Juszczyk got his chance in practice to make an impression on offense.

"They gave me an opportunity, they gave me some reps, and I don't think I took advantage," Juszczyk said after the 2013 season ended. "That's something I can build on for next season."

The 2013 fourth-round pick found his groove on special teams. He was a critical piece of the coverage teams, and was Jacoby Jones' lead blocker on kickoff returns, a role Juszczyk did well in.

He delivered his first NFL knockout blow against a Chicago Bears defender when returning a kickoff, and made five special teams tackles.

"I think it was a good season. I think I was able to help contribute to the team, and I felt like I was a part of the team. I found my role as a special teams guy and really tried to embrace it," Juszczyk said.

"Obviously I wish I could have gotten more involved on the offensive side. I take the blame for that."

The Ravens drafted Juszczyk thinking he could potentially take over for Vonta Leach. But after he struggled in training camp with lead blocking, particularly on the goal line, Baltimore re-signed the veteran fullback.

Juszczyk isn't in the same mold as Leach. The rookie out of Harvard is more of a dynamic, multi-dimensional pass catcher and blocker. But Juszczyk did need some refinement in his blocking if he was going to remain a fullback.

So the rookie spent the year learning behind Leach and playing special teams. Juszczyk got one pass thrown his way in Miami, but it was too far in front of him to catch.

Leach is still under contract for next year, and says he wants to play one or two more years in the NFL. But there is media speculation that the Ravens could cut him again and opt for the younger, cheaper option in Juszczyk next season.

"I definitely look forward to that," Juszczyk said of one day getting the starting job.

"Vonta was great this year. He's such an awesome mentor and I learned so much from him. I think that's going to be huge going into next year. Now I feel like I have a huge advantage because I know what to expect. I feel much more prepared to take on a starting role."

Leach gave his stamp of approval as he cleaned out his locker.

"He was steadily learning and steadily getting better each week," Leach said. "I think he's ready to go out there and show everybody what he can do."

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