Ravens Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta formed one of the leagues top tight end duos last season.
But by the end of Saturdays open practice at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens had neither, and it quickly became obvious that they could use both.
Pitta is likely out for at least the rest of the preseason with a broken hand. The goal is to have him back for the season opener against Cincinnati on Sept. 10. Dickson left the stadium workout early after being poked in the eye, though he said afterward that it is nothing serious. But their absence was glaring, the dropoff from Dickson and Pitta substantial.
Other than Dickson and Pitta, the Ravens current training camp roster lists four tight ends Davon Drew, Billy Bajema, and rookies Bruce Figgins and Matt Balasavage. Of those four, only Bajema, a seven-year veteran who was signed by the Ravens last week, has ever caught a pass in the NFL. Bajema, who was with St. Louis the past three years, had nine catches for 71 yards for the Rams last season.
Drew, who has been on the Ravens practice squad for much of the past two seasons, has yet to appear in an NFL game. Hes listed as No. 3 on the depth chart, and after Dickson left practice on Saturday, Drew spent time with the first unit.
"Were going to find out if Davon Drew is a player for us, and I think he is," coach John Harbaugh said last week. "Davon Drew has got all the skills; hes come so far."
When the Ravens used a two tight-end set -- a popular formation last season in Baltimore and elsewhere -- both Drew and Bajema were on the field. But both of them dropped well-thrown passes in Saturdays workouts.
Dickson (54 catches for 528 yards) and Pitta (40-405) had a combined total of 94 receptions for 933 yards last season.
Dickson said after the stadium workout that training camp is a battle for all the tight ends, and Pittas injury will give the Ravens a chance for extended looks at the other tight end candidates in preseason games. But it became pretty clear that if Pittas injury extends into the regular season, Dicksons role will increase.
I gotta step up big, Dickson said after the stadium practice. With Dennis Pitta out, I think a little bit more balls might be coming my way.