Player to watch at training camp: Dennis Pitta

Player to watch at training camp: Dennis Pitta
June 19, 2013, 10:00 am
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McKinnie back, primed to build on last season

Dennis Pitta has never been more important to the Ravens’ offense. He is coming off career highs in receptions (61), receiving yards (669) and touchdowns (seven).

Anquan Boldin’s departure creates the possibility that Pitta will become Joe Flacco’s favorite target. Flacco and Pitta are good friends and share chemistry on and off the field. Flacco knows Pitta’s tendencies. Pitta knows how to get open.

Three tight ends had over 900 yards pass receiving in 2012 – Jason Witten of the Cowboys (1,039 yards), Jimmy Graham of the Saints (982), and Tony Gonzalez of the Falcons (930). Pitta would love to join that 900-yard club, and it’s a realistic goal if he stays healthy. Tight ends are trending upward all over the NFL, and the Ravens have joined the bandwagon. With Pitta and Ed Dickson, the Ravens have two tight ends capable of working the middle of the field. Expect to see the Ravens’ use of two tight end formations to increase. That should mean more opportunities for Pitta.

``Dennis is a very fine pass route runner, he can catch the ball, and he blocks well at the line of scrimmage,’’ said Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell during minicamp. ``Both guys (Pitta and Dickson) can stretch the field. Both guys can catch the ball and run. Obviously, we will use that in a number of different ways.’'

Pitta’s versatility makes him a difficult cover. Instead of lining up in the traditional tight end position, Pitta often lines up in the slot. That allows him to free himself at the line of scrimmage quickly. Trying to cover Pitta with a linebacker is often a mismatch, and when Pitta gets open, Flacco rarely misses. Pitta had three touchdowns during the playoffs last season, and without Boldin, look for Flacco to find Pitta more often in clutch situations.

Next season will be a big one for Pitta, who turns 28 later this month. He signed a $2.023 million free agent tender in May, and can become an unrestricted free agent in 2014. The Ravens will want Pitta to stick around. But first, they want him to keep getting open.