"I understood where other guys were and what they could do, so I just made myself into a guy that could block, and that worked for last season," said TE Crockett Gillmore. "But, we’ve got a new season." (Kevin Richardson)
Crockett Gillmore entered his first full NFL offseason with the goal of becoming more of an all-around tight end and expanding on the blocking role that he occupied in his rookie season with the Ravens.
So what did he do this offseason to try and improve his receiving skills? He worked out at a well-known training center for offensive linemen.
"The majority of the things I needed [were] power, and the strength to develop and move around," Gillmore said following the Ravens' organized team activity Wednesday. "So, it's a little bit different training, but it's something that I knew would help me."
Gillmore put on about 15 pounds over the past couple of months and now weighs 275, more than just about all of the Ravens linebackers. He said that the increased power and strength has helped him get in and out of his cuts better and gain separation from defenders.
Now, he hopes it allows him to carve out a significant role on offense after the Ravens drafted two tight ends this year — Maxx Williams in the second round and Nick Boyle in the fifth — and still haven't ruled out Dennis Pitta from contributing in 2015.
"What I've noticed mostly about Crockett is a change physically. He was a big guy before, but now he's packing a lot of muscle on that 275 pounds," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He looks the part. He's moving well, he's catching the ball really well and he knows what he's doing. He really does know the offense. Time will tell. We'll see what happens when the lights come on, but he looks good to me."
Gillmore, a third-round draft pick in 2014 out of Colorado State, caught 10 passes for 121 yards and one touchdown in 15 regular-season games for the Ravens last season, and two passes for 30 yards and a score in the playoffs. Both his touchdowns came against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which qualifies as impeccable timing if you ask Ravens fan.
However, Gillmore knew he'd have to become more consistent and more of a complete player to stay on the field. He also knew he'd need to do those things without two people that he leaned on to make the transition to the NFL.
Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, whose fondness for using multiple tight-end sets is well documented, left the Ravens to become head coach of the Denver Broncos. Gillmore was a close friend and former Colorado State teammate of Kubiak's son, Klay, and he believed that Gary Kubiak's presence on Harbaugh's staff was a major reason the Ravens drafted him.
Veteran tight end Owen Daniels, the team's third-leading receiver last year and a player that Gillmore sought out regularly for help, followed Kubiak to Denver, signing with the Broncos as a free agent.
With Pitta's status up in the air because of his second dislocated and fractured hip in as many seasons, Gillmore was suddenly a prime candidate to step into a starting role. So the 23-year-old tight end went to work.
He watched hours of game film to gain a better understanding of the offense, which isn't expected to change much with Marc Trestman replacing Kubiak. He worked on his route running and he became a fixture in the weight room. Gillmore spent a significant part of his offseason working out at the LeCharles Bentley O-Line Performance center in Scottsdale, Ariz. Bentley was a two-time Pro-Bowl offensive lineman and now trains a stable of offensive linemen in the offseason.
Not only did Gillmore feel that the training would further help him as a blocker, he saw it as a means to get much stronger and more explosive.
"I think that the muscle has helped me tremendously in the power in and out of breaks, and just being physical in the run game," Gillmore said. "But mainly in the passing game, I feel like I have the power to get in and out of breaks."
During the portion of OTAs open to the media over the past couple of weeks, Gillmore has made several tough catches, including a couple of the diving variety last week.
"He is already strong, he is already big, but it just seems like he's moving around a lot better out here — a lot more fluid in his route running, catching passes, things like that," Ravens running back Justin Forsett said. "I'm excited about him as well."
Gillmore has always had confidence in his hands. At Bushland High in Texas, he caught 22 touchdowns in his senior high school season alone and had over 1,000 yards receiving. When he first got to Colorado State, he was used as a defensive end and he had a sack in his first college game.
But he was moved back to tight end and finished his collegiate career with 111 catches for 1,308 yards and eight touchdowns in three seasons. As a senior, he caught 47 balls for 577 yards to earn consensus first-team All-Mountain West Conference.
When he got to the Ravens, Pitta and Daniels were ahead of him on the depth chart, so Gillmore didn't need to be told that blocking was what was going to get him on the field. Now, he's striving to become an every-down player.
Pitta and Williams are considered pass-catching tight ends, while Boyle is viewed as more of a blocker. Gillmore, meanwhile, is hoping to do a little bit of everything. He already described his comfort level as "night and day" compared to this time last year.
"I think I found my role last year," Gillmore said. "I understood where other guys were and what they could do, so I just made myself into a guy that could block, and that worked for last season. But we've got a new season."