Looking back on the Ravens 2013 season one of the biggest disappointments for me and for many fans was the lack of production in the Ravens run game.
When I look back on seasons past the one thing you could always count on was the Ravens ground and pound run game yet the run offense was anything but that this year. As I sit here and write this, many things come to mind about this season’s abysmal performances by running backs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce.
As we all know the offensive line had serious issues with run blocking and the schemes of “Run Game Coordinator” Juan Castillo. But it was more than that. There are many questions surrounding Ray Rice at season’s end.
Is Ray Rice healthy or is the Ravens running back still struggling with his hip injury? Is his poor performance this year more of a product of a shoddy offensive line, or has father time caught up to Rice and the years of being the Ravens “go to” guy have taken a toll?
I am just not sure and frankly I don’t think the Ravens are sure either.
Against the Bengals Rice found himself as more of a spectator in the first half watching Bernard Pierce and Bernard Scott get most of the carries. While Rice saw his role increase in the second half John Harbaugh told members of the media after that Rice was kept on the sideline for situational purposes.
Rice finished the season with 660 rushing yards good for the NFL’s 30th ranked ground attack not to mention Rice has averaged nearly 300 touches a year in his first six seasons with the Ravens, and he’s a situational back?
Well on Tuesday the plot thickened as Ravens head coach John Harbaugh made a comment about Ray Rice that was very interesting.
“I really can’t explain that adequately in all honesty,” Harbaugh said at his presser when pressed about why Rice was on the sideline.
“That was something that happened during the game that, when I looked over and saw it, I put him back in the game. I don’t have that answer for you right now. He should’ve been out there.”
Is there a rift in the coaching staff?
Were the Ravens saving him for some miraculous reason?
Once in the game Rice showed some burst getting to the outside to convert a two-point conversion and finished with 15 rushing yards on six attempts.
With the Ravens facing tough salary cap questions this offseason, Rice is unlikely to be released due to amount of “Dead Money” ($14.25 M) he would carry. In fact it would be more expensive to release him than for him to return.
Rice deserves a chance to redeem himself in 2014.
Harbaugh acknowledged his confidence that Ray Rice will deliver on his vow to come back next season in the best shape of his life and have a resurgent year.
Time will tell though just how much confidence they have in him.
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