Will the Ravens depend more on the running game?
The Ravens’ loss of tight end Dennis Pitta to injury for the season may mean several things, among them more passes directed Ed Dickson’s way and more reliance on the rushing attack.
But it could also mean something else. More passing to the running backs.
The Ravens weren’t shy in this regard last season. Ray Rice’s 61 receptions were tied with Pitta for second on the team behind Anquan Boldin’s 65. Only the Saints’ Darren Sproles, with 75, caught more passes among NFL running backs in 2012.
But a lot of Rice’s catches were check-offs, dump-downs, bailouts, whatever you want to call them. Minus Pitta and the traded Boldin, Joe Flacco may be turning even more to his other favorite target. And maybe the Ravens could be sending Rice out on more downfield patterns rather than just flaring him out in the flat or having him hang around under the linebackers.
The missing receiving personnel also could mean No. 2 running back Bernard Pierce has to step up and become a real part of the passing game. He had just seven catches last year. Of course, he wasn’t often called upon to be a receiver, but let’s see if that changes.
The thing is, replacing 126 receptions that have disappeared since last year will be a matter of many hands — sure hands, the Ravens hope — and they will have to come from wide receivers, tight ends and running backs.