It is no secret that the Baltimore Ravens running game is struggling, and although it is not being talked about as much as the other offensive linemen, but the tight ends are a big reason for the ineffectiveness thus far.
The NFL now days has skewed the idea of what a tight end used to be. The tight end was an offensive lineman first, meaning a blocker, who would also catch a pass here and there. Now, tight ends are essentially big wide receivers who simply occupy the middle of the field and their athleticism brings several mismatches when opposing linebackers are covering them.
Here is the issue for the Ravens. Dennis Pitta, who is not the best blocking tight end in the league, but is a decent blocker and is also a very good receiving tight end, has not been on the field yet this season due to a dislocated hip that he suffered in training camp, and it is showing in the run game.
The Ravens current tight ends of Dallas Clark, Ed Dickson and Billy Bajema do not present a single duel threat tight end to the level that Pitta is. Clark is a pure receiving tight end, Dickson, who was considered a blocking tight end who could improve his pass catching ability has struggled in both thus far and Bajema is a blocking tight end first who will catch a ball here and there. Without a respectable duel threat tight end like Pitta, defenses are keying in on the personnel on the field, which is leading them to keying in on what play is most likely to take place.
Let's be honest, if Bajema is on the field, Baltimore is more likely to run the football, while if Clark is on the field a pass play seems more likely. On the flip side, if Dickson is in the game, it could go either way, but defenses are not worried about that due to the poor play of Dickson thus far this season.
Want an example? Clark and Dickson received negative grades from Pro Football Focus this past Sunday against the Packers, and PFF keys in on the fact that run blocking was the key contributor to their negative scores. Notice Bajema is not on this list, and Dickson, who received a -2.1 grade which was lowest among tight ends and receivers for the Ravens, was a very poor performer among all Ravens on Sunday. Clark finished the game with a -1.7 grade and he and Dickson combined for a -3.5 grade in run blocking.
So what you can gather from those grades is that even when Baltimore tries to run the ball with Clark or Dickson in the game to confuse the defense, they are performing so poorly in the run blocking aspect that it is almost not even worth it.
If Baltimore wants to get the run game going, the offensive line is not the only area that needs to get better, but the Ravens' tight ends need to drastically improve their performance.
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