The Ravens drafting of two tight ends – Minnesota's Maxx Williams in the second round and Delaware's Nick Boyle in the fifth – doesn't necessarily mean that veteran Dennis Pitta won't play football again. But it does reflect the reality of the situation after Pitta fractured and dislocated his hip in each of the past two seasons.
Pitta recently expressed hope that he'd return for the 2015 season and the Ravens have said that the player and the doctors will make that decision. But they obviously have to prepare for the strong possibility that Pitta won't play again.
"I still don't know what's going to happen with him," general manager Ozzie Newsome said Saturday.
This isn't a recent revelation. When Pitta was hurt last September against the Cleveland Browns without making contact with another player, it was widely reported that the tight end's career was in jeopardy. You need only to look back at Bo Jackson's career to get a reminder of how significant hip injuries are, and the effect that they can have on both athletes' careers and standards of living.
Pitta returning to the field and recapturing his previous form – that remains the tight end's goal - would obviously give the Ravens a huge boost. But the Ravens need to live in reality, too, and plan for the future with the knowledge that Pitta might not be a part of it.
Central Florida wide receivers coach Sean Beckton had an interesting take on what he believed was the primary reason why Breshad Perriman struggled to hold onto the football early last season. Beckton believes that Perriman, who the Ravens' picked with the 26th selection in the first round, wore down during the practice week and that affected his energy and focus on game days.
"One of the reasons that we win is because those kids work extremely hard. Sometimes I think they're overworked," Beckton said. "Those things, to me, contributed to times where he didn't feel good from the rough week of practice. I don't think he was as mentally sharp on some of those days because of the weeks that he went through in practice. We take a lot of pride in working hard during the week, but toward the end of the week, you want to be fresh, you want to be able to go out and compete.
"I think a lot of those times, what we did during the week with him, kind of hurt him a little bit. He was our big-play guy and obviously during practice, when you're working big plays all the time, those reps add up. As the season went along, we kind of took some of his reps away this past year and he really, really took off at the back end of the year. He's got his pop back. He was more consistent catching the football. He didn't have as many drops. He was able to run. I just think his best football is ahead of him once he gets into the pro level and [Ravens wide receivers coach Bobby Engram] works with him. I don't think the drops will be an issue."
Beckton knows plenty about what it takes to succeed as a wide receiver. He graduated as the Knights' all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards and he was the position coach for future NFL receivers Brandon Marshall and Mike Sims-Walker while they were at the school.
How much work did the Ravens do on Perriman before the draft?
Beckton said that Engram spent a ton of time around Perriman and other Knights coaches during the school's pro day. The Ravens had Perriman in for a private workout. Engram spoke to Perriman at length on the phone the day before the draft. And on the morning of the draft, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said that he watched video of all of Perriman's drops during the 2014 season. And that's only part of it.
I'm sure that's not much different than the homework other teams do on prospective first-round picks, but it does suggest that the Ravens had honed in on Perriman for several weeks.
My favorite Ravens' pick of the draft was third-round selection Carl Davis, the defensive tackle out of Iowa. I'll readily admit that's partly because Davis was tremendous on his conference call with the local media, displaying confidence and attitude.
But beyond that, Davis is the typical Ravens draft pick in that he represented good value (most draft analysts had him as an early second-round pick), he satisfies a need in improving the team's defensive line depth and he comes with a sizable chip on his shoulder.
Davis sounded stunned that he fell all the way to the 90th overall pick. Actions speak louder than words obviously, but it appears that the Ravens are getting a big and talented player with a ton of motivation, similar to the circumstances of Timmy Jernigan's arrival last season.
The knock on Davis is his consistency and effort. Bad habits certainly won't be tolerated by defensive line coach Clarence Brooks, who gets a lot out of his players, and the Ravens' veterans on defense. Also, the Ravens don't need Davis to be an every-down player. They just need him to be a part of the defensive line rotation. To secure a role and get more snaps, Davis will have to bring his effort on every play. The bet here is that he'll emerge as a key player for the 2015 Ravens, just like Jernigan did last year.
Quietly, the Ravens have developed a young and versatile defensive line. Brandon Williams, Jernigan, Davis, DeAngelo Tyson, Lawrence Guy, Christo Bilukidi, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Zach Thompson, Brent Urban and Casey Walker are all 26 years old or younger. With Chris Canty as the veteran leader of the group, it will make for an extremely interesting roster competition during training camp.
The Ravens likely won't announce their deals with undrafted college free agents until later this week when the players come into town to sign their contracts and participate in the rookie minicamp. However, many of those deals have been agreed to and reported.
The Ravens likely will bring in a big undrafted free agent class. Even with the nine draft picks, the they still have just 73 players on their offseason roster. That leaves room for as many as 17 additions. No team has had more success with undrafted free agents than the Ravens, and it appears that they'll have another impressive class this year.