It’s been a motto that has surrounded Ozzie Newsome and his staff for years. “Next Man Up” isn’t just a general phrase, but one that Newsome firmly believes in and that has proven to be vital during his tenure as GM of the team.
After it was announced that Vonta Leach’s time in Baltimore is over, one rookie fullback was probably the happiest rookie Raven. Kyle Juszczyk, the team’s 4th round draft pick now holds the “next man up” role at the starting fullback spot.
While the fact that the team is letting Leach walk seems to indicate that the power-running game won’t be as intense this year, Juszczyk is very capable of filling the void left by “Leeeeeach”.
Juszczyk is the first Harvard player drafted since 2005, and it’s very deserving. The 6’1” almost 250 pound fullback is a wrecking ball. He proved in college to any defender tackling a one-on-one batting against him, they weren’t going to win. He’s very similar to Leach when we think of power in the running game, something that could be beneficial to Jim Caldwell.
Caldwell can use Juszczyk anywhere however, even in the pass game. He led the Ivy League with eight touchdowns through the air, adding to his career total of 22 receiving TDs. He often played as a tight end, leaking off of the line and powering through the defense, but Harvard used him out in the flat as a receiver as well. He’ll line up in front of Ray Rice, but he won’t be limited to being a lead-blocker. Don’t be surprised if you see Juszczyk line up in at least three different spots this season.
In the end, money certainly played a huge role in this potential offense-changing decision. RSR’s Kris Jones explained why this move makes total sense financially:
Cutting Leach may not have been the most popular option around Baltimore, but it was necessary considering the financial constraints against the team with limited salary cap flexibility. The Ravens won a Super Bowl with Leach standing on the sidelines more often than not; I’m fine with the release even though I think they’ll miss his contributions in the locker room.
If someone was going to be consuming $3 million per season and only on the field 41 percent of the time, most would likely chose it to be spent on a wide receiver not currently on the roster.
Juszczyk is going to contribute in more ways than one, and the goal-line game might get a whole lot better. The Ravens tried to use Vonta Leach as a goal-line threat in the passing and running game, but it hardly ever worked. Leach was a lead-blocker and that’s all. Yes, he was probably the best blocking fullback in the game, but he didn’t have the versatility that Juszczyk has.
Whether it’s a 3rd-and-2, or 2nd-and-15, there is a way that the Ravens 4th round pick fits in the scheme. I think you’ll be seeing a lot of Juszczyk this year, and M&T Bank Stadium might be yelling “Juuuuuuuice” many times in 2013!