There aren’t a lot of Nick Boyles in the NFL. There certainly aren’t any available to sign in mid-November.
And with the Ravens tight end suffering what coach John Harbaugh called a “major knee injury" in Sunday night’s loss to the New England Patriots, the team will have to make do without a top-level replacement.
The Ravens could promote or sign practice squad tight ends Sean Culkin and Xavier Grimble ahead of Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans. They could also sign free agent Luke Willson, whom the Seattle Seahawks cut earlier this month after he had just 10 offensive snaps in five games. Coach John Harbaugh indicated that Willson worked out for the Ravens on Monday. If he signs this week, he would be available to play Sunday.
Pro Bowl fullback Patrick Ricard, who has lined up as a tight end at times this season, could also slide into Boyle’s spot in some situations.
“We’ve got some plans on that, so we’ll just see as we go,” Harbaugh said in a video conference call. “We’ve got some guys on the practice squad. Had a player in for a workout today, as you probably saw. Of course, Pat can take on a bigger role, certainly. So we’ll have a good plan for that.”
Boyle had 14 catches on 17 targets for 113 yards and two touchdowns this year. One of the NFL’s most versatile blocking tight ends, he played over 62% of the Ravens' offensive snaps in all but one of the team’s first nine games this season.
Over three October games, Ravens wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown averaged 73.3 receiving yards per outing. In three November games, he has 55 yards total.
Brown struggled to get open again Sunday, finishing with two catches on six targets for 14 yards. Quarterback Lamar Jackson still finished 24-for-34 for 249 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, but Brown’s limited production has led to questions about how the offense can help him — and how he can help the offense.
“You get coverages and guys get open, or they don’t get open,” Harbaugh said. "The quarterback can see it or he can’t see it when they are open. ... It’s kind of how it works. ...
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“We want more big plays, for sure. We want more catch-and-run plays. We took numerous opportunities to try to throw the ball deep in that game, and none of them really happened in terms of the deep throws, so you’ve just to keep working on it and try to make it happen. If we can make some big plays in the passing game, that’d be huge for us, and we’re working on trying to do that. But the defense doesn’t always cooperate, either.”