The starting tight end position for the Ravens is a quandary heading into the summer of 2017. Dennis Pitta is done in by another hip fracture/dislocation. Who knows if 37-year-old veteran Benjamin Watson can really come back from Achilles rehab at a high level?
Suddenly it looks like Delaware’s own Nick Boyle has the inside track on the starting job.
Yeah, that Nick Boyle—the one who was suspended for four games at the end of the 2015 regular season for violating the league’s performance enhancing drugs policy. Then he flunked the same test again in the 2016 offseason. That one cost him a 10-game suspension.
Last year head coach John Harbaugh was livid about Boyle’s second suspension—he was quoted as saying Boyle had “doubled down on dumb”…
But now it looks as though Harbaugh may have to put most of his tight end eggs in Boyle’s basket.
“I said it was stupid or dumb, or whatever I said, and I double down on that because he did it again,” Harbaugh said last year. “It’s even worse because he knew he tested positive and what he tested positive for. It’s just ridiculous that he would do that.”
“I asked him, ‘What are you thinking?’” Harbaugh said. “And he can’t explain it. There’s no explanation for dumb. It’s just really, really dumb. It hurts us, it hurts him, and he’s going to have to overcome it.”
The 6-foot-4, 260-pound Delaware product was impressive in flashes in 2015. The fifth-round pick caught 18 passes for 153 yards and was a strong blocker.
A third suspension for PEDs would mean Boyle would be suspended for two years.
“I still think he’s going to be a really good player in this league,” Harbaugh said. “If he continues to double down on dumb, then he’s going to be out.”
As the worm turns, this is Nick Boyle’s big chance for redemption with the Ravens.
Boyle, Darren Waller and Vince Mayle are the only healthy tight ends for the ravens heading into the summer break. Benjamin Watson (Achilles) and Crockett Gillmore (hamstring) should both be on the field at the start of training camp, but are dealing with injuries. Maxx Williams (knee) is still recovering from last year’s surgery, and it’s up in the air whether he’ll be ready for the start of camp.
“Boyle, a 2015 fifth-round selection, could be the surprise starter on this year’s team,” ESPN’s Jamison Hensley wrote. “He’s making the most of his opportunities, coming up big in red zone drills this offseason.”
Hensley said Boyle will have to hold off Watson and Gillmore for the starting job when they each return for training camp. Press Box’s Bo Smolka put together his early projection of Ravens starters and backups, and listed Boyle as the No. 1 tight end with Waller at No. 2.
The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec, on the other hand, has his eyes on Waller. Zrebiec wrote that Waller is the “most talented and gifted” tight end on the Ravens roster, and nothing including his missed time this summer has changed that belief. However, Waller has had his ups and downs.
In one minicamp practice, Waller made a big play across the middle as safety Tony Jefferson chased in pursuit. A few plays later, a pass bounced off the converted wide receiver’s hands and was intercepted.
“You can see why Waller can frustrate the coaching staff,” Zrebiec wrote. “The Ravens need to get faster and more athletic offensively, and Waller provides those dimensions. They’re probably just going to have to live with the occasional drop, poor route or missed assignment, given Waller’s upside.”
Funny how things work out sometimes, when you ponder the Ravens’ tight end situation and conclude that “Doghouse” Nick Boyle is now the favorite to claim the starting TE position.