Rookie tight end Maxx Williams was expected to challenge second-year player Crockett Gillmore for a starting job, but this hasn't been much of a contest.
Gillmore, drafted in the third round a year ago, has had a strong training camp. He looks and plays the part of a starter, and certainly has the confidence that might have been lacking last year.
"I always knew I could be a tight end in the NFL, or I wouldn't have been here," Gillmore said. "I think the biggest thing for me was the beginning of last season and understanding what I needed to do to change body-wise and physically to alter my game to be an all-around guy. And that wasn't at the end of the season; it was more at the beginning."
Besides confidence, Gillmore brought a different body to this training camp. A year ago, he looked more like a power forward in the NBA with a 6-foot-6, 250-pound frame. He appears to have added 15 to 20 pounds during the offseason, and he is the best blocking tight end on the roster. He's an effective blocker on running and passing plays.
Gillmore came into training camp expecting to earn a starting position regardless of whether the team had Dennis Pitta or Owen Daniels, both of whom started ahead of him on the depth chart last season.
Pitta is still on the sideline nursing a hip injury and Daniels signed with the Denver Broncos during the offseason.
"My expectation was to be the guy regardless of if he was here or not," Gillmore said of Daniels. "That was my mentality going into the offseason. I knew that as soon as Denver picked up [Gary Kubiak] that Owen [Daniels] would probably tag along with him. So, it wasn't a surprise to me at all, but my mentality was to be the guy regardless of who was here."
Gillmore has been a favorite target of quarterback Joe Flacco inside the red zone in this training camp. He'll be a major weapon for the Ravens this season in the West Coast offense -- new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman likes to balance up defenses with two tight ends.
But make no mistake, Gillmore is the best all-around tight end on the roster and he looks forward to Thursday night's preseason opener against New Orleans.
"I think the NFL is tight end-friendly, and it's just going that way," Gillmore said. "Right now, it's kind of a trend, and luckily for me, it's the right time. So, it's just part of what we need to do to win games, and that's what we'll do."
"I'm excited to play. It's still new. [I'm] still excited to get out there and hit somebody," he said. "So, we really feel that we're practicing at the hardest level, at the highest level, of anybody around. When that time comes, we'll be ready, but we're still kind of cleaning up our game against ourselves first."