Everyone has a favorite tight end. Personally, I like mine to be more compact, and to have a sort of form-fitting quality. But there are a variety of different tastes, and I have spoken to many men who enjoy larger tight ends, and they cannot lie.
Early this season one tight end has emerged, and he’s tighter than nearly all of the other ends. We call this end Dennis Pitta, and we were all particularly attracted to him. Pitta went largely undrafted, with an ADP of 149 in NFL.com leagues back in August. That’s why he became a darling tight end that we wanted to grab again and again, over and over, until the night closes in.
The Ravens TE had 188 receiving yards prior to Baltimore’s win last night over Cleveland that was far closer than it should have been. That yardage total puts him fourth among tight ends, ahead of some other guys at his position named Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, and Vernon Davis.
The pride of finding a tight end that’s this tight early in the season on the waiver wire is unmatched, as Pitta’s owners were sure they had made fools of those who spent a second-round pick on the likes of Gronk or Graham. What’s even more encouraging than Pitta’s early numbers was his high usage in the Ravens’ offense, as through three games he led both the team and all tight ends in targets with 31.
Then last night happened.
If you look for Pitta on a boxscore of any kind, you won’t find him. That’s because since the time when they were invented by the Greeks, boxscores only show a players’ production if he, you know, produces. He has to do something. For our purposes, he has to catch a ball, or throw a ball, or carry a ball, or intercept a ball, or kick a ball, or tackle someone who tries to do any of those things. Just once, that’s all. He only has to do any of those activities once.
And Pitta didn’t. After collecting 30 fantasy points thus far (good enough for seventh in Yahoo leagues, again ahead of those Gronkowski and Graham guys), Pitta did nothing. What’s even more concerning is that after averaging 10 targets per game through three weeks, Pitta was targeted only once.
Want another reason to asplode? It was a close game (23-16 final score) in which the old Joe Flacco showed up briefly with some poor decisions — especially on his first-quarter interception — but he was still mostly effective, completing 60.9 percent of his passes for 356 yards. A tight end wasn’t on the receiving end for even one of Flacco’s 28 completions, even though he finished with a season-high 46 pass attempts. Ed Dickson, who has faded to be the No. 2 TE in Baltimore behind Pitta, was also absent from the boxscore, and he wasn’t targeted.
You have plenty of reasons to panic, but only if you’re the type who enjoys diving down deep, dark holes at the first sight of trouble. Panic less, and breathe more, friend.
Pitta’s Thursday night performance will become an outlier, and it was almost surely a product of the Ravens’ gameplan and their desire to test Cleveland’s secondary deep with Joe Haden still sitting out due to his four-game suspension. Need some proof as you re-glue the scrambled pieces of brain matter? Prior to Thursday, Anquan Boldin had 118 receiving yards on 10 catches, and then last night he had nine catches for 131 yards, eclipsing his total yardage for the season in just one game and nearly doing the same with his receptions.
It wasn’t just Boldin. Some guy named Tanden Doss had only his second reception of the season, and it wasn’t just your garden variety 11 yarder for a first down. No, Doss’ catch went for 39 yards, further exploiting a Browns secondary that ranks 27th and is giving up 268 passing yards per game.
Despite finishing with almost zero everything, Pitta was still on the field for 71.3 percent of the Ravens’ offensive snaps, playing 22 more snaps than Dickson. He also ran 36 pass routes, which trailed only Boldin and Torrey Smith. He was there, and he was contributing, but the passing focus was in a much deeper area of the field covered by faster dudes.
The intermediate routes will return next week against a much better Chiefs secondary. Say, remember that time last year when Gronkowski had just one reception for 15 yards in Week 4? Yeah, me neither.