Abbreviated Friday: Ravens Rookie Juszczyk Shaping Into Offensive Role Player

Today’s column is a bit late and abbreviated due to some home improvement (resurfacing driveways isn’t a 5-minute task).

The selection of Kyle Juszczyk in the fourth-round was a bit of a surprise back in April, as the Ravens already had talented fullback Vonta Leach on the roster — coming off of his third consecutive All-Pro and Pro Bowl season nonetheless.

Leach, who was set to enter the final year of a three-year, $11 million contract signed prior to the 2011 season. However, Leach’s talents are largely limited to lead blocking for a run-oriented offense, yet the 31-year-old is still one of the best run blockers in the game. However, the replacement of former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron with ex-Colts head coach Jim Caldwell in a highly publicized move mid-season cast doubt on the utilization of Leach — and therefore also his worth to the team.

Within a couple weeks of Juszczyk’s selection, Leach was released by the Ravens. In Juszczyk, Baltimore had found a capable lead blocker who offered more than Leach in the way of versatility — having played both tight end and fullback for Harvard, Juszczyk had already proved himself as a capable blocker and pass catcher out of the backfield. Naturally, this means that Caldwell can utilize Juszczyk in various roles and in various formations to fool defenses.

It seems the Ravens are already revealing a bit of their hand, as the Akron Beacon Journal has reported that Juszczyk has been lining up as a lead blocker, H-back, tight end and even out of the slot as a pure receiver in camp. In an offense that lost Anquan Boldin and added little in the way of receivers, Juszczyk could be in for a decently-sized load in the way of 20-30 receptions.

With recent developments, it’s all-but certain that Juszczyk will not only make the active roster as a rookie, but quite possible that the 22-year-old could be in for a surprise impact in his first professional season.


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