Ravens’ Focus Shifting Back to the Running Game?


After Monday’s training camp practice, head coach John Harbaugh announced that fullback Vonta Leach would be returning to the Ravens.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the deal was for two years, which was something that Leach had a problem finding on the open market, due to being 33 years old and playing one of the highest contact (and lowest demand) positions in football.

Leach’s addition comes at a perfect time for the Ravens, as their offense suffered a major blow when they lost tight end Dennis Pitta for the season to a dislocated hip. The combination of losing Pitta’s ten touchdown, 832-yard performance from last season and a noticeable lack of depth at the wide receiver position could force the hands of Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell into making the Ravens more run-heavy than they had hoped to be just a week ago.

Last season, the running back duo of Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce averaged 118.8 yards per game, which was good enough for 11th overall in the league. Not factored into those numbers was Rice’s catching ability out of the backfield, where he had another 566 yards and a touchdown receiving.

With one of the top running duos in the league accompanied by arguably the best fullback in football, shouldn’t the Ravens stick with a formula that has proven to be successful? It may not pay dividends on the $120 million investment into quarterback Joe Flacco, but it sure will help you win games.

After all, if Flacco were judged on wins versus his stats, would anyone nationally have a reason to criticize him? Flacco doesn’t care about gaudy stats, and the Ravens surely don’t either – just ask owner Steve Bisciotti about his bank account.

Leach’s signing is good news all around…well, unless you’re rookie fullback Kyle Juszczyk, whom the Ravens drafted in the fourth round (130th overall) as an insurance policy due to the uncertainty surrounding Leach’s future in Baltimore.

The financials of Leach’s contract haven’t been released as of yet, but if his deal is in the ballpark of the $2 million for 2013 that was reported by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, the Ravens could have likely stuck it out with the rookie Juszczyk, and utilized the money for Leach to instead upgrade at receiver.

Now that Leach has officially signed with the Ravens, Juszczyk will have to focus on special teams contributions if he wants to find himself activated on game days. Juszczyk signed a four-year rookie deal prior to OTA’s and will certainly get his time to start in the NFL, but that now likely won’t come until after Leach is no longer a Raven.

The popular saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and that’s certainly the case with the Ravens’ running game. On the other hand, there are plenty of cracks at wide receiver. Even though I thought that Leach’s signing was more of a luxury than a necessity, it should create a shift in focus for this offense – hopefully one that leads to continued success.

For more Ravens news and information, follow me on Twitter @RavenManiac

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About Kris Jones

Kris Jones
Kris - or "Goob" as he's widely known - has turned an obsession into a career. As a media member by day and super fan by night, he reports from the Under Armour Performance Center twice per week and brings Ravens news from a fan's perspective. His popular YouTube series...more

7 Raves on “Ravens’ Focus Shifting Back to the Running Game?

  1. Daniel on said:

    Kris you are just like everyone else who is stuck in a box and assumes that the Ravens will
    just be a run oriented offense, I suggest you read John Eisenberg’s take on the Ravens offense
    on Baltimore Ravens.com, he’s the only one thinking outside the box.

  2. BoldinRaver on said:

    Keep hearing the same thing – fullbacks are going away because of a pass-happy NFL. So the Ravens go with a road paver FB. The question is are the Ravens right or wrong for not seeking symmetry with other teams? LBs are becoming more like big safeties. D-lines getting lighter … Speed, speed speed but fewer Leaches. I like the Raven way. Have speed, sure, but give em some meat tenderizer. Make them play Ravens football for four quarters and I like our chances.

    • East Endzone on said:

      I agree. It seems to me that defenses will see less and less of FB based running attacks. All the more reason to for the Ravens to stick with it.

  3. cbay52 on said:

    Juszczyk is an H-Back. He’s got decent speed and good hands, but he’s too small to pound NFL DL and LBs like Leach does. Leach’s blocks are devastating and I guarantee Ray Rice is happy they resigned him.

  4. AicheeE on said:

    I would agree Juszczyk’s contribution will be on special teams this year if he was a pure fullback coming. But the fact is, Juszczyk was a pretty good receiver and would probably be in contention to take some of the snaps that Pitta would have gotten if he does well in Training Camp and in the pre-season. The question will be how well does his success against ivy league competition translate to the NFL.

  5. K athy on said:

    No way the Ravens are paying Joe that big contract to hand the ball off to Rice or Pierce. What worries me is that Joe will not have a dependable target to catch his bullet passes. And I’m sure the fans will blame Joe whenever his receivers drop a pass. From what I have read about camp, Torrey is Joe’s only reliable target, but I am sure things will improve as Joe gets comfortable with someone other than Q, Torrey and Jacoby. Go Ravens

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