Ravens Backfield Running on Empty?

running backs camp

Gary Kubiak’s offense has long been a productive one, among the league’s best. It has also been one that heavily depends on an effective running game.

In 2013 the Ravens’ running game was hardly effective.

Some blame the running backs; some blame the offensive line; some blame the coaching of the offensive line; some blame the play calling.

It was all of the above.

The Ravens have improved the offensive line this offseason. They’ve re-signed Eugene Monroe who we hear has become quite the gym rat and they’ve added center Jeremy Zuttah. Kelechi Osemele is dragging and flipping tractor-trailer tires around like they’re pancakes so there’s reason to believe he’s healthy. Marshal Yanda is one year removed from shoulder surgery and should have a healthier 2014.

The only unsolved piece of the puzzle is right tackle. It could be Ricky Wagner. It could be Jah Reid. It could be an early draft pick. It could be a veteran free agent.

It could also be Osemele.

If the Ravens don’t draft a starting caliber right tackle and if second-year offensive lineman Ryan Jensen, the former ThunderWolf from Colorado State University-Pueblo with the nasty disposition is impressive at left guard during camp, KO could be the choice at RT.

As for the coaching, 2013 was such an embarrassment to John Harbaugh that you can rest assured offensive line coach Juan Castillo and Kubiak will be on the same page. There’s no way around it. Besides Castillo’s approach seems to be a better fit for Coach Kubes’ style than the departed Jim Caldwell’s and there won’t be the infighting amongst the staff that was somewhat divisive in 2013.

Then Castillo, Andy Moeller and running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery couldn’t see eye-to-eye and the message to the players was at best mixed.

So with the personnel, the staff and the play calling all addressed, that leaves the running backs.

Former All Pro Ray Rice is said to be leaner and quicker albeit more emotionally scarred. Bernard Pierce is recovering from shoulder surgery and newcomer Justin Forsett had only 6 carries in 2013 as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

It’s quite possible that Rice will be suspended for a game or two. Plus until he proves that 2013 was an aberration it’s hard not to think that the running back wall is just around the corner for Rice assuming he hasn’t already hit it. And let’s not forget the storm of verbal abuse that awaits him in each stadium he’ll visit in 2014.

If Rice is ineffective, the team will be forced to turn to Pierce for the heavy lifting and the third-year pro isn’t exactly a model of durability and that’s prior to dealing with the shoulder rehabbing. Forsett has never had more than 118 carries in a season. He’s generally regarded as a change-of-pace back at best.

Perhaps the Ravens will turn to the draft for answers or at the very least for an insurance policy.

Perhaps a veteran free agent?

For an offense dependent upon a solid ground attack the Ravens certainly have their fair share of unanswered questions in the offensive backfield.

But as we’ve seen with Ozzie Newsome in the past, the offseason isn’t over until the Ravens tee it up on opening day.

And that should be music to the ears of Gary Kubiak.

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About Tony Lombardi

Tony Lombardi
Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan. A diehard Fab Four fan, Tony is a frustrated musician who thinks beating on the steering wheel is akin...more

10 Raves on “Ravens Backfield Running on Empty?

  1. jws on said:

    Tl, Good opinions on the situations now left facing the Ravens and Ozzie. It is now time to move on at both running back positions, right tackle and offensive line coach. Of course all that is impossible to do in one off season, with cap limits and adding qualified players at both still needed positions. Line coach Castillo should have been fired but the front office allowed Harbaugh to hold on to one of his falures he hires to coach. Castillo never ddi well in all his years in Philly or had any kind of succcess coaching offensive or defense. Andy Reid like Harbaugh hired a friend who has a proven record of inconsitent success in the NFL .Starting Gino was a failure all year, Shipley not much better at guard and Castillo never made a change. Oher had a terrible year. Rookie Wagner sat most of the year with 3 failed starters. The questions remains why Ozzie had signed no veteran free agent lineman but Castillo has coached with better players and still failed! Osemele is no right tackle and he already proved he could not play there when as a rookie he was tried. Jah Reid has never played well at any position and was moved to gurad, so why put ‘s like Rice start getting injured especialy when no one has touched them you begin to wonder are they on the down side of their
    Bishop Sankey from WASHINGTON is the best player that could be had by the Ravens in round two this year maybe round three eraly and is the same size as Rice at 5’9″ but with 4.49 speed to get outside and is strong by benching pressing 22 reps at 225 lbs. He should be drafted and Pierce cut along with Reid. There is likely no college prospect that is a sure thing to be successful next season to draft to start at right tackle, so Martin from Notre Name a better guard than tackle would be nice but with a need at safety both a running back and tackle are unlikely in the first two rounds. Ozzie’s best move is to trade down get an extra second and get all three positions filled with two second rounders and his eraly own third pick.

    • Anonymous on said:

      Actually, Castillo did create some effective rushing attacks in Philly. It was his defensive failures that got him fired.

  2. Cheri on said:

    Tony I’m thinking along the lines of a 3 or 4 games suspension for Rice just simply going by what Big Ben got with the Steelers and if i recall his case was either dropped or he was proven innocence it was one of the two and Goodell still gave him what 4 games?
    As for the Ravens running game my take is I hope Ozzie let’s Gary have a lot of say in drafting a RB for his system.If it’s one thing the Shanahan and Kubiak knows it’s RB’s that fit their system.I also say we prpbably don’t need to draft a RB in the 3rd round like some people have suggested .Here are some names that played in that system.
    Terrell Davis, Orlandis Gary, Gary Anderson, Arian Foster,Ben Tate and Alfred Morris just to name a few, guys who were low round picks or went undrafted.These are just guys who ran for over 1000 yards there are countless others who made an impact for those teams like a Forsette with his 5.9 ypa for Houston.

  3. joe d on said:

    Would love to see the Ravens get Jeremy Hill from LSU. He is just plain filthy. As a freshman in 2012 he ran for 755 yards, 12 TDs and averaged 5.3 yards a carry. In 2013 scored 16 TDs, averaged 6.9 yards a carry and caught 18 passes for 181 yards. Anyone who averaged 6.9 yards against the SEC is excellent insurance if Rice and Pierce can’t get it done and will definitely replace Rice in 2015.

  4. reason prevails on said:

    jws–
    did you actually write that “pierce cut along with reid”? cut? you expect the ravens to cut Bernard pierce? maybe I am not understanding….cut? the guy is in his third year and the ravens used a third round pick…..he’s cheap….his rookie year, two years ago, he was one of the most impressive rookie runners in the league….how do you cut a third-year player who is cheap on the cap who had the type of year he had two years ago? yes, he’s had injuries, but that’s asinine…..

  5. Mark on said:

    A running back in Kubiak’s scheme must have brains, vision, one-cut skills and a burst. Pierce, or even Forsett may fit the bill as well as Rice anyway. These RB skills are also often found in the middle rounds of the draft and Ozzie will find one. Linemen in our new scheme must be smart and agile and I think Zach Martin would be a great plug and play RT if Lewan is not available.

  6. paul b on said:

    THIS^^ couldn’t agree more with Bernard Pierce being a focal point of our offense, especially this year! Bernard Pierce is also the best fit for a Kubiak offensive scheme, and there have been multiple people on record saying he reminds plenty of Arian Foster with his one-cut slashing style, it remains to be seen if it will all pan-out that way but if true, shouldn’t we all be really pumped about the possibility? I know I am!

  7. JerryB on said:

    The running game appears to have become an after-thought in the pass-happy NFL, so it remains to be seen how Kubiak”s offense makes use of the available talent, which is more than adequate. Not really possible to evaluate last year’s talent fairly due to so many variables that you mention. It will be surprising if they don’t use the pass to set up the running game and not vice versa!

  8. Joshua on said:

    I think we’ll draft a running back in the mid-rounds. Keep an eye on Towson’s Terrance West; we seem to like him a lot.

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