Kyle Juszczyk joked with tight ends Dennis Pitta and Owen Daniels the other day.
“I wish we would just call a fullback screen on the first play and just get it out of my system,” Juszczyk said. “Even if I get no yards, let’s get it done.”
After leading the Ravens in receptions (10) this preseason, the second-year fullback hasn’t even been targeted with a pass through Baltimore’s first two regular-season games. He has yet to catch a regular-season pass in the NFL.
A year after going over 1,000 yards, and despite quarterback Joe Flacco saying he sees him as a 100-catch guy, wide receiver Torrey Smith has as many catches as wide receiver Kamar Aiken so far (4). Smith caught just one pass for 10 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
So what gives?
The answer came Thursday, as Smith, Juszczyk, Flacco and Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak all urged patience. The numbers will come, and they’ll be evenly spread.
“We’re going to attack the defense and where the ball goes, it goes,” Kubiak said. “We don’t call a play and say, ‘Throw it to him.’ We’re going to throw where we’re supposed to throw it. So, I think those things all work themselves out.”
Last season, it was fairly easy to know who was going to get the ball. With Pitta injured for the majority of the season and Jacoby Jones missing essentially the first five games, the Ravens were limited in their targets.
Smith and Marlon Brown dominated the number of targets. This year, Brown hasn’t been targeted once.
Steve Smith Sr. has 25 targets thus far. Pitta is second with 18 and Daniels is third with 11. Torrey Smith and running back Justin Forsett have 10 targets each.
With a horde of talented players to throw the ball too, the Ravens are much tougher to predict. Anybody could have a big day, which is a good thing because it means Baltimore is harder to defend.
The flip side is that with so many hands on the football, individual players may not get much action in a particular game, or string of games.
“We have so many guys that can make plays that you’re going to see different guys week to week,” Daniels said. “I had two touchdowns last week but I might not score for another 10 weeks.”
Daniels knows Kubiak’s offense better than anyone and said it’s very common for the wealth to be spread. Especially with Kubiak leaning so much on the run game to keep balance, there are only so many passes to catch.
“It makes everyone kind of hungry,” Daniels said. “I think that makes everything work really well, honestly.”
Slower starts are actually nothing new for Smith. In his rookie season, he didn’t notch a single catch in the first two games before breaking out with five receptions for 152 yards and three touchdowns in the third game. The next year, he had four catches for 108 yards in the first two weeks, followed by six snags for 127 yards and two scores in the third.
The way the defense is playing also largely dictates who gets the ball. With the Ravens playing a quick-release, West Coast scheme, they will often go to the player who is not facing press coverage to get the easy reception. Smith has been getting pressed with extra help so he doesn’t beat the cornerback deep with his well-known speed.
Smith also ends up running a lot of clear-out routes meant to open up the middle for others. Opponents have to respect him when he goes deep because of that speed.
“It’s not like Kubiak goes into it like, ‘We’re going to throw to this guy 1,000 times and this guy not at all.’ It’s all about the way the coverage dictates it,” Smith said. “I’m just playing my part. I know the ball is going to come more than it’s been coming. I’m not frustrated at all.”
Juszczyk also said opposing defensive formations from the Bengals and Steelers in Weeks 1 and 2 have kept him off the field more than expected. Plus, he knows that his first job is to block, and second priority is as a weapon in the passing game.
“Give Juice the rock!” he joked. “Honestly, I’m just staying patient with it. I know we have so many weapons on this team and any day could be a different guy. You embrace the role you’re given and be confident that they know what I can do and eventually it will come.”
Kubiak said he specifically complimented Smith on a very good week of practice as they finished up on Thursday, and said Juszczyk has been working hard too.
“I’d like to think that we can be balanced, and the ball can get spread all over the place,” Kubiak said. “I think those things will even out. You just have to find a way to move the ball.”