During Ray Rice’s career, playing in Cleveland has typically meant a heavy workload for the Ravens running back.
The Ravens have won their last nine meetings against the Browns, and in the three games Rice has been the Ravens starting running back in Cleveland Browns Stadium (2009-11), he’s never had fewer than 20 carries.
However, in 2012, giving Rice more than 20 carries will mean a shift in offensive philosophy for the team. So far this season, Rice has only carried the ball 20 times in one game (New England), and managed only nine carries in the team’s last game in Houston.
“I always try to factor myself in, whether it’s running or receiving. I know where I’m most effective, that 20-25 touch range is usually pretty good but we know there’s only one football to go around.
“This is the healthiest I’ve felt in a while, obviously coming off the bye and doing the right things to take care of my body. I’m looking forward to a nice workload the second half of the season.”
Like many fans, Rice has been frustrated by the team’s Jekyll-and-Hyde impression, where they look like a completely different offensive team on the road compared to in the friendly confines of M&T Bank Stadium.
“It’s definitely harder to do the no-huddle on the road because you’ve got to factor in the other team’s crowd,” Rice said.
“Joe has to communicate to a lot of different people so we try to come up with little different signals but we’ve all got to be on the same page. I think the second half of the year, the best thing we’ve got to do is all be on the same page, let Joe drive this thing, let the coaches call the plays and go out there and execute at a high level.”
Also like many Ravens fans, Rice has been dismayed by the disappearing act of his Pro Bowl fullback, Vonta Leach.
“Vonta Leach to me is the best fullback in the league. There’s not too many of them left and he’s just a pure hard-nosed football player. Obviously, when he’s on the field, our offense is successful. Using that big guy in front of me is very good. He likes to get up on linebackers and a lot of teams lately have been trying to take his legs out but he’s been doing a great job of covering those guys up getting the block and I’ve been able to find my read and make cuts behind him.”
“I think we mix it up a lot,” he said.
“We just have to use [Leach] more; we can use him on passing situations because of the great blocker that he is. I don’t want to say, that when he’s in the game, we’re running the ball. We just have to find ways to obviously use him more and more and keep him on the field as much as we can.”
Formation complaints aside, when asked what positives he has seen in the ground game during the first seven games of the season, Rice pointed to the lack of times he (or fellow back Bernard Pierce) has been tackled for a loss.
“One thing we’re doing on offense very well is that we’re not having many negative run plays, so I think we’ll just carry that momentum onto the second half of the year and try to continue on running and passing the ball and doing what we do well.”
So what will the game plan be in Cleveland? Will the Ravens attack the Browns like they have historically – on the ground?
If so, it may be tough sledding – in Week 4 in Baltimore, the Browns held Rice in check, limiting him to just 2.7 yards per attempt on 18 carries, his lowest average of the year.
With two weeks to prepare, the Ravens better have something good up their sleeves – the Browns are undoubtedly more than ready to put an end to that nine-game losing streak to the purple and black.