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For Ravens, Joe Flacco-to-Dennis Pitta a recipe for 'failed completions' in 2016

According to Football Outsiders, a lot of Dennis Pitta's receiving total in 2016 was empty calories.

Considering the state of Dennis Pitta's two hips and Joe Flacco's left knee a year ago, it's a miracle of medical science that the Ravens tight end and quarterback appeared in all 16 games last season.

With the Ravens' tight end position decimated by other injuries, Flacco found Pitta 86 times on 119 targets for a career-high 729 yards and two touchdowns. But according to an analysis Tuesday by Football Outsiders, a lot of that total was empty calories.

Flacco was among the NFL's worst quarterbacks as measured by what the analytics website calls "failed completions," defined as "any completed pass that fails to gain 45 percent of needed yards on first down; 60 percent of needed yards on second down; or 100 percent of needed yards on third or fourth down."

(This stat is admittedly imperfect, as it fails to account for offensive penalties, conservative play-calling and pass protection. But it's the offseason, so we persist.) 

Nearly a third of Flacco's passes (33 percent) were failed completions; only Los Angeles Rams rookie Jared Goff (39.3 percent) was worse. Flacco also set a record, with some room to spare, for the most failed completions in a season, largely owing to his 672 pass attempts in 2016, second most in the NFL.

But more interesting was the role of Pitta, Flacco's longtime security blanket, as a co-conspirator. It's no surprise that tight ends, especially those coming off potentially career-ending injuries, don't stretch the field like wide receivers. It is a surprise that Flacco's failed-completion rate actually got worse when hooking up with Pitta.

Of Pitta's 86 completions last season, 31 — a league high among wide receivers and tight ends — were failed completions, according to Football Outsiders. That number alone isn't problematic; stars like Antonio Brown (28), Jarvis Landry (26) and Doug Baldwin (26) are right on his heels in the category.

But only four wide receivers and tight ends had a higher failed-completion rate. Flacco's 33 percent rate overall is a worry; his 36.4 percent mark on completions to Pitta, who led the team in catches, is a recipe for bad offense.

"Wide receiver Breshad Perriman was also not a real big-play threat in his recovery from a rookie season wiped out by injury," Football Outsider's Scott Kacsmar wrote. "With the Ravens losing Steve Smith to retirement, a new weapon could be in order for this offense."

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