The Ravens have always had good running backs. At times, they’ve had great running backs. Earnest Byner, Jamal Lewis, Priest Holmes, Willis McGahee, etc. have all had different running styles but have all helped Baltimore win games (at times, even when rushing was the only thing the defense expected).
These days the Ravens still have a high level of talent at the position, but their confidence in those players might be waning. Mine would be.
We all know about Ray Rice and what he’s involved in. Baltimore ownership has consistently stated that Rice will be a big part of the team in 2014. That loyalty is good to see but it may not be up to the ownership, as Rice is subject to league discipline.
Rice’s backup, Bernard Pierce, has impressed since he’s been a Raven. One could easily say that Pierce had a down year last year, but what member of the Baltimore offense didn’t? Due to his balance and mean stiff-arm, Pierce will rarely go down after the first hit and will frequently maximize yardage, whether running between the tackles or along the sideline.
Pierce is recovering from shoulder surgery, but according to the Sun, he said Saturday night that he should be ready to play, “definitely by training camp.”
Cierre Wood is the other running back currently on Baltimore’s roster. He’s a second-year back from Notre Dame who’s carried three times for nine yards in his career. Wood comes from the Texans, so maybe Gary Kubiak sees something in him that he likes.
Even if Rice isn’t suspended and Pierce is 100 percent healthy, the Ravens still need help at the position. They ranked 30th in the league last year in rushing offense, gaining a meager average of 83 yards per game, including just five runs of 20 yards or more and seven touchdowns.
By comparison, Philadelphia (the league’s best rushing offense) ran for an average of 160 yards per game, including 19 runs of 20 yards or more and 19 touchdowns.
The Ravens don’t have to be the Eagles in terms of their rushing offense. The players the Eagles have on their roster are special players. However the Ravens have special players too, and should perform much better than 30th best.
That said, I propose two options to augment Baltimore’s rushing attack. Both options are very doable and would coincide with the Ravens’ M.O.
Option 1: Sign Andre Brown (UFA, NYG)
Andre Brown is coming off of a shortened but productive season for the New York Giants. Brown broke his left leg in the same spot two years in a row, yet in 18 games with the Giants he’s averaged 4.1 yards per carry and rushed for 11 touchdowns.
Brown (6’0″, 227 pounds) was born in Baltimore and won’t turn 28 until Week 15 of the 2014 season. He’s an unrestricted free agent that earned $2.023 million with New York in 2013.
The prospect of a hometown player, in his prime, that won’t cost a lot is one I’d expect the Ravens to at least be exploring.
Option 2: Draft Terrance West (Towson)
If you watched Towson University football over the last three years, you know the name Terrance West.
Since 2011, West (5’9″, 225 pounds) has scored 84 rushing touchdowns. He rushed 802 times for Towson, racking up a whopping 4,854 yards (6.1 per carry average).
A product of Charm City’s Northwestern High School, West showed power, grit, and rare endurance. He played in a complex offense run by Tigers head coach Rob Ambrose and would fit in well with the Ravens’ new offense, should they draft him.
Both backs are Baltimore born, weigh at least 225 pounds, and do their best work near the end zone. Furthermore, if the Ravens were to acquire either of these players, there’s not a foreseeable scenario in which they would have to compromise their salary cap or pool of draft picks.
Both Brown and West are what the Ravens look for: tough, hard-nosed players that love football and aren’t afraid of adversity.