To say that Ray Rice has struggled would almost be too kind a way to describe his performance this season. Take your pick of the numbers Rice has posted this year, whether it be the 2.7 yards per carry, whether it be that he has graded out as the lest elusive back in the NFL by Pro Football Focus, or whether it be that he simply is not producing big plays, as evidenced by his season-long carry of 14 yards.
Without a doubt Rice is having BY FAR the worst season of his career.
It is common knowledge around the NFL that after 3-4 seasons, running backs begin to break down, and at the midway point of Rice’s sixth NFL season, he looks to have lost a step. He lacks a burst and is hardly the player that Ravens fans have been treated to since he was drafted in 2008.
Early on in the season, Ravens fans hoped that Rice’s hip flexor injury suffered in Week 2 against Cleveland may have been slowing him, but he has since declared himself fully healthy and has been equally as ineffective.
Rice apologists can blame the offensive line, which has played poorly this year, and can point to the fact that backup running back Bernard Pierce has also struggled this year, as a couple reasons not to give up on Rice just yet. However, it is clear that with the Ravens sitting at 3-5 and beginning to fall behind in the playoff race that the Ravens centerpiece needs to get going.
“Everybody has these situations,” Rice told the Baltimore Sun earlier this week, “A down year isn’t going to make or break me as a person. I’ve got broad shoulders. The next eight games, I’m just trying to go out there and be the best Ray Rice I can be for the next half of the season.”
It’s troubling that Rice has already declared the season as a whole as a down year and it is also equally troubling that Rice is being counted on to be one of the key cogs in the Ravens offense as he is in just the 2nd season of a 5 year, $40 million dollar contract. The Ravens have to hope that eventually Rice gets it going and soon, because the lack of a run game has made life hard on Joe Flacco and the passing attack as well.
If there was ever a week for Rice to stop getting bottled up play after play, after play, after play, and to get back on track, this Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium against the 6-3 division-leading Cincinnati Bengals would be a pretty good one.
This Ravens team needs him.