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Positional Review Preview: Tight End

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2008 Review:

Todd Heap, fresh off an injury filled 2007 season was ready to re-establish himself as a passing threat. And with Cam Cameron at the head of the offense expectations were high that the Tight End would be featured and Heap would return to his offensive production of old.

It simply wasn’t the case. Many reasons can be cited for Heap’s disappointing season only by his previous standards. (35 catches, 403 yds, 3 TD) First, Heap’s role was changed when Joe Flacco was forced into the starter’s role. Often times he was left in on the line to block as the plays called were Max Protect to give the youngster few reads and extra time. Second as a result, Flacco’s timing with receivers seemed to take the natural progression of Mason, Clayton and then Heap as evidenced by Heap biggest game against the Texans during Week 10. Heap caught 5 passes for 58 yards and 2 scores. He also had a clutch grab against the Titans that set up the winning field goal during the playoffs.

Heap did complete the entire season without injury that kept him from the field. Which is more that can be said of some others at the position.

Daniel Wilcox suited up for 13 games, which isn’t bad considering he’s only played a full season once during his five year career in Baltimore. He was a factor in the red zone catching two touchdowns but only finished with 5 catches.

Six Foot-Six Quinn Sypniewski was injured the entire season with a knee injury and did not appear.

The injury seemed so prevalent at the position that other players converted to try and catch passes. Early on O-Lineman, Chris Chester got the TE/OL hybrid tag as well as linebacker Edgar Jones.

2009 Preview:

Todd Heap, the all-time leading receiver in Ravens history remains a focal point of the off-season. He did not fully participate in OTA’s due to injury and it had fans whispering again about Heap’s toughness and durability.

Personally I feel neither are in question and think he’s gotten a bit of a bum rap over the past year. Entering his 9th year as a Raven I would say that he has done a fine job of succeeding Shannon Sharpe at the position and has given the team a fine career. His role will continue to change and you simply won’t see the 75 catch seasons from a few years ago. I think he still does have some football left in him and with the Right Tackle spot being addressed in the draft maybe Heap will go out on a pattern or two this Fall. I also think his presence should be increased as a Red Zone threat since Daniel Wilcox was not resigned.

The club did pick up another player was had had injury issues in former Eagles L.J. Smith. Smith is somewhat like Heap, who is a solid pass catcher and not known for his blocking. But he should been seen in some two tight end sets and can be a threat in the middle of the field.

It doesn’t look good for Quinn Sypniewski in his rehab and may open the season yet again on IR. It’s a shame since he was showing some progress in Heap’s absence and is the best blocker of the trio.

The Ravens would have loved to solve the issues around the position by drafting Brandon Pettigrew but the Lions snatched him at #20, so they went a different direction. Instead they picked Davon Drew a 6 foot 5 inch player out of East Carolina that depending on how things shake out in Training Camp may get a chance to prove his worth right away. He has shown good burst off the line and fine body control on the catch.

The Tight End has been a focal point of the offense for years and I just think the team may finally be moving away from that and more to the outside. I would expect a year a little better than last from Heap and Smith and maybe some contribution from Drew, other than that the offense looks to be starting a new chapter on offense.


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