Who Fills In For Dennis Pitta?


Losing Dennis Pitta for the remainder of the season is a blow to the Ravens offense.

Pitta was second on the team in targets (21), receptions (16) and yards (125), only trailing wide receiver Steve Smith Sr.

But Head Coach John Harbaugh is confident in the team's options to step up, and with good reason.

The group primarily includes tight ends Owen Daniels and Crockett Gillmore and fullback Kyle Juszczyk. One thing the Ravens don't lack is options to catch the ball.

"Those guys are going to be a huge part of it, because they are here," Harbaugh said. "We do have really good players."

The most logical replacements are those at the tight end position. Harbaugh said the team will look outside to add another, but those already on the roster instantly move up the depth chart.

Daniels will become the starter, and he has shown in the past that he can handle the job. He started all but four games he played in during his eight years with Ravens Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak in Houston, and had two Pro Bowl seasons (2008, 2012).

Daniels has proven he can be relied on this season as well. He's been targeted 12 times and caught 10 of those passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns through three games. Only running back Justin Forsett (15 targets, 13 receptions) has a better reception percentage on the Ravens.

The question with Daniels is how well his body will hold up over the course of a long season. He sat out two weeks of practice and missed three preseason games due to fatigued legs. Now those legs will have to carry a heavier load.

Then there's rookie third-round pick Crockett Gillmore. Gillmore has impressive tools at 6-foot-6, 251 pounds, but he wasn't a big-time receiving tight end in college at Colorado State, and hasn't shown to be that yet in the pros. He had just two preseason catches and has yet to be targeted by a pass in the three regular-season games. Gillmore has been used exclusively as an extra blocker.

Juszczyk is an intriguing option because he can help replace Pitta in the receiving and blocking game. Harbaugh brought his name up first when speaking to the media Monday.

The swiss-army knife fullback led the Ravens in receptions during the preseason (10 catches, 90 yards), but didn't catch a pass in the first two regular-season games. Juszczyk hauled in three for 54 yards and a 9-yard touchdown in Cleveland. His 33- and 12-yard catches came after Pitta got hurt.

Similar to Pitta, Juszczyk can line up all over the offense – in the backfield, at tight end or out wide. The Ravens had high hopes for Juszczyk's offensive potential this year but had trouble getting him on the field and targets through the first two weeks. That will likely change now.

"The fact that we have Kyle who can swing in there and play three different positions is a big plus for us," Harbaugh said.

The Ravens may also rely on more production from its wide receivers. Since Pitta sometimes lined up out wide, he can be replaced by a wideout in those formations.

Wide receiver Marlon Brown, who tied a Ravens rookie franchise record with seven touchdowns last year, has caught just one pass for 15 yards so far in 2014. He has a big body like Pitta, and could be relied on more particularly in the red zone. With Pitta out for 12 games last year, Brown had an expanded role as a rookie.

The Ravens may also need more production from No. 3 receiver Jacoby Jones, who has three catches for 20 yards so far, or even bigger-bodied receiver Kamar Aiken, who had four snags for 30 yards in the regular-season opener.

"You're going to have to adjust your offense," Harbaugh said. "We're going to play our good players. Whoever is on the field is going to be who our good players are and according to how our offensive coaches decide to attack."

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