Dennis Pitta: Ravens TE Still a Risky Addition Despite Breakout vs. Bengals

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIISeptember 11, 2012

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 10:  Tight end Dennis Pitta #88 of the Baltimore Ravens catches a touchdown pass in front of cornerback Leon Hall #29 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the second half at M&T Bank Stadium on September 10, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Dennis Pitta came to play on Monday Night Football in the Baltimore Ravens' season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals, but jumping on his fantasy bandwagon is a bit premature.

Not only does he face competition for targets from his fellow tight end Ed Dickson, but the Ravens are also likelier to lean on the running game as the season progresses.

A fired up Ravens squad torched the Bengals defense on a night where recently passed owner Art Modell was recognized before kickoff, feeding off the emotion and a raucous home crowd.

Everyone is ready to hail Baltimore as Super Bowl contenders and label Joe Flacco as an elite quarterback, but it's time to hold the phone for now.

Both of Pitta's biggest plays in his five-catch, 73-yard performance occurred under circumstances that can't be relied upon on a consistent basis.

His longest reception of 25 yards came on a play action fake, as Flacco faked a stretch play to stud running back Ray Rice, causing the Bengals' defense to collapse. That busted coverage resulted in Pitta running wide open across the middle, and Flacco hit him on an easy pitch-and-catch.

The 10-yard touchdown grab by Pitta showed that he has potential as a viable red-zone target at 6'4", 245 pounds, but it was a lobbed ball that Flacco threw off his back foot.

Pitta doesn't have a track record of elevating and coming down with those 50-50 jump balls, and until he does, it would be wise not to count on that happening all the time.

The other three catches for 38 yards were just the type of plays Dickson could easily make himself, and it's no lock that Pitta will continue to register team-high totals in pass targets.


Cincinnati's secondary was also not up to snuff, notching multiple crucial pass interference penalties. First-round pick Dre Kirkpatrick is injured and won't take the field for another few weeks thanks to a setback in his rehab, according to Joe Kay of the Columbus Dispatch.

That's unfortunate, because Kirkpatrick certainly wouldn't hurt the Bengals at cornerback. Leon Hall is the No. 1 corner but is coming off of an Achilles injury. Nate Clements, Terence Newman and Adam Jones all have their best days behind them, too.

Oh, and Taylor Mays starts at strong safety.

That opened up all kinds of opportunities in the passing game, especially with the threat of Rice as both a runner and a receiver.

Flacco, to his credit, capitalized on all of these factors, but until he is more consistent and consistently looks for Pitta, the third-year tight end isn't worth a fantasy flier unless your team is absolutely desperate.

The Ravens' competition stiffens in the coming weeks. This Sunday, Flacco has to get it done on Sunday night against Tom Brady and a revamped New England Patriots defense.

Thereafter, the Ravens host the Cleveland Browns' vaunted pass defense that picked Michael Vick off four times in Week 1.

Those two games alone will go a long way in determining how reliable Pitta will be for the rest of the season.

Pitta was undoubtedly impressive and had something of a breakout performance on Monday night, but he's not worth a knee-jerk add to anyone's fantasy team.