The uproar after Week 1 was how much the Baltimore Ravens missed wide receiver Anquan Boldin, and the Ravens certainly would benefit from his toughness and clutch plays. But the Ravens miss tight end Dennis Pitta much more than Boldin.
Pitta, who is on the injured reserve-designated for return list after injuring his hip in training camp, may have been the Ravens' leading receiver at this point. Now the tight end position is one of the biggest weaknesses for the defending Super Bowl champions.
The Ravens have gotten little production out of Dallas Clark, Ed Dickson and Billy Bajema. Joe Flacco has connected on a little more than half of his passes to them (20 completions on 39 targets). Compare that to last year with Pitta, who caught 65.5 percent of the passes thrown his way (61 of 93).
The Ravens' tight ends have scored no touchdowns and have produced no catches more than 20 yards. Pitta had seven touchdowns and eight receptions greater than 20 yards.
Entering the season, the Ravens looked like they were in better position to handle the loss of Pitta more than the void left by the trade of Boldin. But undrafted wide receiver Marlon Brown, who has filled Boldin's spot in the starting lineup, leads the team with three touchdowns.
The biggest disappointment for the Ravens is Dickson. He has dropped four of the nine passes thrown in his direction, according to Pro Football Focus. One pass in Buffalo went off Dickson's hands and resulted in an interception.
The Ravens are clearly losing patience with Dickson.
“Ed just needs to go catch the ball,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He needs to run fast, get open and catch the football, put it away and get up field. That’s all he needs to do. And if he’s thinking about anything besides that, he’s doing himself a disservice.”
The pressure is on Dickson, who will be a free agent after the season. Through four games, he has more drops than catches (three).
"Mentally, it seems like a bad dream," Dickson said.
The Ravens' tight ends have produced the fewest receiving yards in the AFC North. Even the Pittsburgh Steelers, who didn't have Heath Miller for two games, have gotten 230 yards out of their tight ends, which is 12 more than the Ravens. Cleveland Browns tight end Jordan Cameron has more catches, yards and touchdowns than the entire tight end group in Baltimore.
The statistics would look different if the Ravens had gotten the projected production out of Dickson. A third-round draft pick in 2010, Dickson caught 54 passes and scored five touchdowns in 2011.
“The stats kind of speak for themselves that you’re alluding to,” Harbaugh said. “He’s not the same player right now that he was then, obviously.”