Color me confused. The release of fullback Vonta Leach is understandable from a financial standpoint… I get it.
This season Leach was set to earn a $1.75 million base salary with a cap hit of $2.33 million, hardly worthy of it for sure based on his 2013 playing time as the Ravens moved to more of a single-back approach.
Leach played just 19.5 percent of the snaps during the season averaging just under eight plays a game.
It certainly was the easy choice.
However that was 2013…
Since missing their first postseason of the John Harbaugh era, the Ravens have vowed to upgrade the Ravens offense during the offseason. The combination of the offensive line’s play and the lack of a run game, the Ravens offense sank to a putrid rank of 29th in the league in total offense.
The Ravens coaching staff took a swift turn with the hiring of new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. Kubiak has a long history of resurrecting failing running games. During his head coaching tenure in Houston, the Texans boasted the franchise’s Top 3 rushing outputs, including the NFL’s No. 2 ground attack in 2011 when they posted a franchise-record 153.0 yards per game.
Given Kubiak’s success with flailing run games and his history with Leach parting ways with the multi-Pro Bowler is a head scratcher.
During the Ravens introduction press conference of Kubiak, John Harbaugh stated “It’s going to look like Baltimore wants it to look. It’s going to be rugged, it’s going to be rough, it’s going to be tough, physical, downhill, precise football – passing game and running game. And that’s what we are looking to become. I think there’s a really good fit here philosophically.”
Harbaugh went even further adding that both Leach and Jacoby Jones reached out to him endorsing the direction.
“They thought that was something that would work right away. I think they’re both pretty excited about it.”
With Leach now gone, second-year fullback Kyle Juszczyk will take over the starting job in Kubiak’s run first system. While “Juice” is no doubt more of a versatile weapon than Leach, the experience Leach possesses is second to none.
In fact the Juszczyk experiment failed during training camp when he was pushed all over the field during short yardage drills prompting a telling statement from Terrell Suggs: “Where is Vonta Leach when you need him?”
While Juszczyk has another year under his belt and learned from Leach throughout 2013, will that be enough?
“Vonta was great this year. He’s such an awesome mentor and I learned so much from him. I think that’s going to be huge going into next year. Now I feel like I have a huge advantage because I know what to expect. I feel much more prepared to take on a starting role,” Juszczyk told the teams’ official website in January.
The former Harvard fullback/tight end saw action in all 16 games as a rookie however most were on special teams where he was the lead blocker on kickoff returns. He did see one pass thrown his way against the Dolphins however a badly thrown ball fell incomplete.
With a lot hinging on a Ravens offense that sputtered for much of 2013, the Ravens are banking on Juice taking on numerous roles in the Kubiak offense.
While the youngster deserves his shot, one has to wonder if Leach will once again be on speed dial in 2014.
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