The Ravens rushing attack was in dire need of an overhaul after the 2013 season.
Setting all time lows in offensive output, the Ravens found themselves on the outside looking in once the NFL postseason began for the first time under head coach John Harbaugh.
Just how bad was the Ravens’ ground attack?
As a team, the Ravens combined for just 1,328 yards on the ground in 2013 averaging just 83 yards per game. To put that into perspective at truly how bad their running game was, Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy (1,607) and Bears back Matt Forte (1,339) ran for more yards alone, than the Ravens combined.
Per NFL.com, Rice was the league’s 30th ranked running back in 2013.
Per ProFootballFocus.com, Rice was 55th of 55 running backs graded while Pierce was 41st.
Ray Rice led the team with just 660 yards on 214 carries, a measly 3.1 yard per carry average. Twenty-one NFL running backs with 200+ carries last season averaged more ypc than Rice. Backup running back Bernard Pierce (NFL’s 48th best) wasn’t any better producing just 436 yards rushing on 152 carries.
The Ravens made it priority number one this offseason to get their ground game back to where it was once feared. The hiring of Gary Kubiak who brought with him his aggressive zone-blocking system has a history of producing successful running backs. Moves were made to find players who fit Kubiak’s style including the trade to acquire center Jeremy Zuttah, who played in a similar type offense in Tampa.
Will 2014 be different?
Rice is in excellent physical shape thus far and certainly appears quicker however no one appears to know (except Roger Goodell) when he will suit up for his first game snaps in 2014.
Bernard Pierce has yet to take a snap throughout OTA’s or minicamp as he continues to recover from offseason shoulder surgery. Pierce has taken reps in drills and will be ready in time for training camp, John Harbaugh stated previously.
Journeyman running back Justin Forsett, a Kubiak disciple, was brought in this offseason in what many thought would be a teaching role, could find himself playing a much bigger role depending on Rice’s situation. He took reps with the first team offense on occasion and looked solid. His work ethic is strong however he does have a bit of an injury history.
The Ravens spent a draft pick on Lorenzo Taliaferro, who was the Big South Conference Offensive Player of the Year last season but found himself on the wrong side of the law this offseason. While not facing a league suspension in 2014, it’s certainly not a good impression to make as a rookie. Taliaferro has shown his ability in pass protection which is hard to do as a rookie facing NFL level competition. Although it’s still early the Coastal Carolina product certainly looks the part of the “downhill runner” the Ravens expect him to be.
Training camp is around the bend and we can finally see just how much of an improvement the team made once they strap the pads on.
For an NFL offense that finished 30th in the league in rushing the only place to go is up, right?
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