2015 Ravens training camp preview: Tight ends

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With the Ravens beginning their 20th training camp in franchise history this month, expectations are high for John Harbaugh’s team as they eye their seventh trip to the postseason in eight years.
As veterans report to Owings Mills on July 29th and the first full-squad workout takes place the following day, we’ll examine each position group entering the summer.
July 20: Quarterbacks
July 21: Defensive line
July 22: Running backs
July 23: Linebackers
July 24: Wide receivers
July 25: Tight ends
July 26: Cornerbacks
July 27: Offensive line
July 28: Safeties
July 29: Specialists
Below is a look at the Baltimore tight ends:
TIGHT ENDS
LOCK: Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle
BUBBLE: None
LONG SHOT: Allen Reisner, Konrad Reuland
PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM LIST: Dennis Pitta
Synopsis: Even if Dennis Pitta is able to return from his second serious right hip injury in two years, the Ravens can’t plan on him playing in 2015, leaving a great deal of pressure on a trio of tight ends with a combined one year of NFL experience. General manager Ozzie Newsome made a firm commitment to the position by trading up in the second round for Minnesota’s Maxx Williams after selecting Crockett Gillmore in the third round of last year’s draft. With no other experience on the roster — assuming Pitta begins the year on the reserve PUP list — the Ravens will likely lean on Gillmore in the early stages of the season after he caught 10 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown as a rookie and impressed during spring practices. The upside is certainly there with this group, but growing pains would not be surprising.

One to watch: The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Williams was the consensus best tight end in the draft and has huge upside at just 21 years of age, but it was a quiet spring for him as he didn’t catch many passes and appeared to be thinking too much on the field. Unlike past drafted tight ends such as Todd Heap and Pitta, Williams is not in the position to serve as an understudy to an established veteran, which puts more pressure on him to make an immediate impact. There are plenty of reasons to be confident in Williams’ ability, but it remains to be seen how quickly it will come together for him.

One on notice: There isn’t another tight end who fits the description other than Pitta as his future remains in doubt. The Ravens officially placed him on the PUP list, and he could begin the year with that designation, which would force him to miss at least the first six weeks of the regular season. Pitta’s $4 million base salary is guaranteed for 2015, but there are no ironclad commitments beyond that for the Ravens, meaning they could release him after the year if it looks like he won’t be returning to football. While Baltimore would love to have his talents, Pitta needs to do what’s best for him and his family.

Sleeper: Nick Boyle is considered a block-first tight end, but the Ravens liked his hands when they selected him in the fifth round from the University of Delaware. He isn’t blessed with the athleticism of Williams, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him factor into the red-zone offense, especially inside the 10-yard line. If Gillmore is going to be a bigger part of the passing game as most expect, Boyle could find himself receiving plenty of playing time as a blocker. You wouldn’t expect gaudy numbers from the 6-foot-4, 260-pound target, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see Boyle catch a couple touchdowns this year.