Probably the biggest concern through two games for the Baltimore Ravens has been the run game, which has shown no signs of life.
The Ravens have produced 163 yards on the ground so far, but on 54 attempts (three yards per carry) and have failed to reach the end zone in that department.
Neither Justin Forsett nor Terrance West have looked up to speed, and the run blocking has been sub par to say the least. Luckily, Sunday’s opponent – the Jacksonville Jaguars – presents the Ravens with a chance to right the ship on the ground.
For as bad as the Ravens have been running the ball, the Jaguars have been equally as bad against the run. Jacksonville’s defense is tied for 25th in the NFL with 122.5 yards per game allowed on the ground, and is tied for 29th in the league in with points allowed (32.5) per game.
Something’s gotta give, right?
Let’s take a look at how Baltimore’s run game has struggled, and why Jacksonville may be the proper opponent to get the running backs back on track.
For Baltimore, the blocking has been the biggest issue. Granted, the decision making and tendency to outrun blocks has not helped Forsett or West, but the run game starts with the offensive line.
On a controversial fourth-down run last week, the Ravens opted for a pitch to the outside. In theory, the play call sounds horrible, but in reality this play could have been an easy first down if not for poor blocking.
As Forsett bounces toward the outside, the blocking is in tact.
As he continues toward the edge, center Jeremy Zuttah follows by his side, ideally to seal off the lane off Forsett’s right shoulder, as left tackle Ronnie Stanley is managing to hold his own ahead of his running back.
Zuttah fails to catch up in time in order to seal off the oncoming defender, leaving Forsett with two Browns players to take on at the same time.
This is a recipe for disaster, and Forsett has nowhere to go. Had Zuttah sealed off Forsett’s inside, the running back would have only had a cornerback to beat in order to pick up the first down.
Overall, the play calls and decision making in the run game have not been horrid for the Ravens; the blocking and inconsistent play of Forsett and West have been the issues.
But as mentioned, Jacksonville’s run defense is equally as troubled, as the front four has regularly struggled to disengage from blocks, and the defenders at the second level have been inconsistent.
In last week’s game against San Diego, the Chargers offensive line dominates Jacksonville’s front off the snap.
This leaves the duties up to the second level, where the safety and linebacker are tasked with clogging up the run lanes for running back Melvin Gordon. However, the safety ahead of Gordon initially crashes inside, leaving the hole between the left tackle and tight end open.
This is as easy of a run as Gordon can get, and he ultimately picks up seven yards on the play. Throughout the run, the Jacksonville defensive line struggles to disengage from the blocks, leaving the rest of the Jaguars defense to play catch-up in order to stop Gordon.
With the struggles of Jacksonville’s front, Baltimore’s disappointing offensive line should have an easier task on Sunday. This will leave Forsett and West with opportunities to make a difference at the second level, as opposed to getting stuck in a pile-up at the line of scrimmage.
If the run game for Baltimore fails to show at least some sign of life against Jacksonville, then the season outlook for the Ravens offense will become a concern, regardless of the presumed return of Kenneth Dixon.