After catching 18 passes in his first three games of 2012, in the process endearing himself to fantasy football aficionados, Dennis Pitta was shut out by the Cleveland Browns last Thursday. He played 57 snaps as the Ravens continued to line up the tight end all over the field, but he had zero catches on a season-low two targets.
As a result, those finicky fantasy football folks have been bailing on Pitta, but there is no reason to think he won’t continue to be a big part of the Ravens offense. As Pitta explained, his lack of production was simply the product of quarterback Joe Flacco taking what was given to him -- and that was favorable matchups for his wide receivers against a vulnerable Browns secondary that is even weaker without cornerback Joe Haden.
“We’re always going to attack teams differently,” Pitta said Thursday afternoon. “You have to take what the defense is giving to you, and I think Joe does a good job of distributing the ball where it needs to go based on the look. Some games are like that, you’re just not going to get passes thrown your way.”
Against the Browns, who now have the NFL’s 28th-ranked pass defense, Flacco threw 31 of his 46 attempts to wide receivers, including 12 to Anquan Boldin and 10 to Torrey Smith. Those two combined for 15 catches, 228 yards and a touchdown.
“With so many weapons and so many opportunities to spread the ball around, one game one player is going to have a big game and the next someone else is going to have one,” Pitta said. “It’s not just one guy that is going to dominate the targets, the catches or anything like that at the end of the season.”
Through four games, Pitta leads the Ravens with 32 targets, including a whopping 15 in the Week 2 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Running back Ray Rice is not far behind with 31. Boldin and Smith have 28 apiece. Pitta’s emergence has been a mild surprise, at least outside of the Under Armour Performance Center.
Opposing coaches and coordinators now talk in podium sessions about the need to keep an eye on Pitta (and fellow tight end Ed Dickson), but Pitta hasn’t noticed any extra attention being paid to him besides teams trying to get physical with him at the line of scrimmage to disrupt his routes and his timing with Flacco.
To free up the third-year tight end and create mismatches against opponents, the Ravens have used him as a receiver in the slot, split out wide and out of the backfield, and he has 188 yards and two touchdowns on those 18 catches. Pitta has lined up at 16 different spots, according to Pro Football Focus, and has only been used as a traditional tight end about half the time.
“I think it’s a lot of fun to be able to play a lot of different roles, to move around and be down in a stance or flexed out,” Pitta said. “I think it’s a lot of fun to be asked to do different things.”
Especially when you’re catching passes, something he should continue to do often, even if it wasn’t the case against the Browns.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun