The vacancy at tight end after the Baltimore Ravens released 11-year veteran Todd Heap will be filled by two second-year players, Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta. Last year with Heap receiving the bulk of the playing time, both Dickson and Pitta made just minimal contributions to this team. However, that won’t be the case this year, with Joe Flacco’s safety net now gone. Both Dickson and Pitta must equally step up and replace the production Heap gave to this team, when healthy.
It was Dickson who showed the Ravens last season some flashes of what he can be, as the 24-year-old appeared in all but one of the Ravens 16 games, which included three starts. The University of Oregon product produced when given the opportunity in 2010, contributing 11 catches, totaling 152 yards and 1 touchdown. Dickson’s highlights last year included a 34-yard touchdown reception in Week 15 against the then defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints and a 58-yard deep ball in Week 5 against the Denver Broncos.
Meanwhile, Dennis Pitta appeared in 11 games last season for the Ravens, recording just 1 catch for 1 yard. With Dickson having been sidelined for the Ravens first preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles, it was Pitta who impressed the coaching staff, leading the Ravens in both receptions (4) and receiving yards (47).
In a story in Pitta’s hometown paper, the Ventura County Star, the 26-year-old is in a “prime position” to shine and make his presence felt in the NFL.
Having been hampered by a nagging hamstring injury, it’s been Dickson who’s had to watch watch fellow second-year tight end Dennis Pitta impress the coaching staff with one solid training camp performance after another.
This is what Dickson had to say in Dan Kolko’s MASN article regarding his hamstring injury and not wanting to push anything:
“Having a competitive mind made me want to get back that much faster,” Dickson said. “I didn’t want to push it (with the hamstring). The head coach is really strict about that, saying not to hurt it more than it already is. But, seeing (Pitta) make plays makes me want to make plays. At the same time, I’m proud of him for making those plays, stepping up and having the camp that he’s having. But I want to be out there to make plays, too. The competitive fire in me is a little greedy, and I want to get back out there.”
Although Dickson and Pitta are roommates and remain close, make no mistake about it, Dickson still wants to earn the starting tight end job, which is still up for grabs at this point.
Dickson is considered the more athletic of the two, but Pitta seems more disciplined and has shown better hands so far in camp and, of course, the one preseason game. The next three preseason contests may not be so important when it comes to wins and losses, but could very well determine who lines up across the offensive line come September 11, when the Ravens host their division rival Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2011 NFL regular season opener.
No matter how things turn out, one way or another, both guys figure to get a lot of reps in 2011, and the one that gets the leg up in pre-season will most likely be the one to get the nod in the Ravens first few regular season games.