"Really, ever since we lost Ray Rice, we haven't had a type of back that’s quite like how Ray was and quite like how (Danny Woodhead) is in the passing game," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "They just have a very good feel for when they're open and how to get open, how to sit in holes, how to find my eyes, and you can already see that. You can see he has a really good feel for those kinds of things. If you remember back, obviously, Ray was really good at doing that, and that gives a lot to your offense for sure."
From 2009-13, no running back caught more passes than Rice, who averaged 67 receptions a season during that span. Over the past three campaigns, no Baltimore running back has totaled more than 45 catches.
Woodhead is expected to play a big role in the Ravens' passing game because two of Flacco's top underneath targets are gone. Tight end Dennis Pitta was released after re-injuring his right hip, and fullback Kyle Juszczyk signed with the San Francisco 49ers in free agency.
We can file this one under "Duh." Woodhead should catch a ton of passes for the Ravens, though we are a bit concerned about his playing time when Kenneth Dixon returns from suspension. Woodhead's third-down/hurry-up role should be safe with Dixon pushing Terrance West for carries on early downs.
Consistently getting open in the middle of the field, Ravens TE Dennis Pitta caught nine passes for 102 yards. In just his second game back after a nearly two-year absence, he produced his second-most receiving yards of his career.
"I see what Dennis is doing and, man, I'm inspired," Ravens wide receiver Steve L Smith Sr. said. "It's great to play with a guy like that. To see how he's playing after what he went through, and seeing him shifty and being the old Dennis, it's fantastic."
The chemistry between Pitta and quarterback Joe Flacco is remarkable considering they haven't been on the field together much. Pitta didn't play all of last year, and he missed a month of training camp with a fractured finger. When Pitta practiced during the spring, Flacco was sidelined while recovering from knee surgery.
Flacco threw to Pitta five times on third downs, completing four passes (all led to first downs). No one else on the Ravens caught more than two throws on third down. Pitta certainly seems worth a pickup if you're struggling at the position as the chemistry aspect should only get better the longer they can remain on the field together. The Ravens' other tight ends -- Crockett Gillmore and Maxx Williams -- have combined for two catches for 27 yards. Comparatively, Pitta has a team-leading 12 receptions for 141 yards through the first two weeks of the season.
Three projected starters in tight end Dennis Pitta, left guard John Urschel and nose tackle Brandon Williams were among five players who returned to Ravens practice on Saturday morning.
Pitta had not practiced since Aug. 1 when he broke a finger on his right hand in a scuffle. With the season-ending Achilles tear suffered by Benjamin Watson in a preseason game against the Detroit Lions on Aug. 27, and Darren Waller and Nick Boyle to begin serving multiple-game suspensions, the presence of Pitta – who had a red, non-contact jersey tucked into the rear waistband of his shorts – was a welcome sight for the team. Second-year tight end Maxx Williams also returned, from an unspecified ailment, the story said.
This obviously isn't a great fantasy situation. Right now, Gillmore has had the most practice time and would probably have the edge at least to start the season. Pitta and Williams have just returned, but Pitta hasn't played a game since Week 3 of 2014. Williams was the top TE drafted in 2015 but just needs to stay healthy to get a chance. Pitta has been a top red zone target for QB Joe Flacco and that may be a place where he stands out. This is looking like a wait-and-see fantasy situation and perhaps one to avoid until we learn more.