Tight ends fall out of favor

Tight ends fall out of favor
October 30, 2012, 5:00 pm
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Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) congratulates tight end Dennis Pitta (88) after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter against the New England Patriots at M&T Bank Stadium.

(Evan Habeeb-US PRESSWIRE)

Dennis Pitta went from being a primary target for quarterback Joe Flacco to almost invisible.

The tight end was targeted 23 times in the first two games of the season, hauling in 13 catches for 138 yards and one touchdown. But in five games since then, Pitta has had 17 catches on 24 targets for 138 yards and one touchdown.

Flacco, regarded as his best friend on the team who he frequently plays golf with, didn't target Pitta once in the Ravens' 23-16 win vs. the Cleveland Browns. on Sept. 27.

The Ravens come out of the bye week to play at Cleveland, winners of two of its last three games, on Sunday. It'll be their first road game in the AFC North.

"It’s more a product of all of the things," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said when asked to explain Pitta's drop-off. "Whether it’s protecting the quarterback, running the ball or getting more plays, getting first downs to create more plays, guys getting open, players themselves getting open or making plays or making catches, or whatever, making throws. It all goes together."

Not helping matters is the other tight end, Ed Dickson, hasn't been a threat. He slipped from first on the depth chart behind Pitta early in the season, even though both start as Harbaugh uses two-tight end sets.

Dickson has only eight catches, and several key drops, for 74 yards and hasn't scored a touchdown. Flacco hit him in the hands from two yards out with what would've been an easy score in the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys, but Dickson couldn't hold it.

If Flacco isn't able to complete the deep ball, the Ravens' pass offense stalls if his tight ends can't get free underneath.