Ravens fans everywhere were nervous – and rightfully so.
A journeyman and career backup RB now leading the running game after a Super Bowl slump season in 2013? Not exhilarating news for lovers of the purple and black.
However, Forsett quickly quieted everyone and finished the season with an impressive 1,266 yards (5.4 AVG) and eight TD’s while catching 44 balls for 263 yards.
Forsett showed a regression last year without Gary Kubiak’s “Forsett friendly” running game that stressed the zone blocking scheme that benefited Forsett so much. Forsett’s statistics took a hit and without impressive performances in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, his numbers didn’t give fans a reason for excitement. Outside of the statistics, Forsett simply did not look as good as a year prior. He lacked the ability to find holes and began to confirm the theory that he was a product of good offensive line play in a favorable zone stretch scheme.
Here we are in 2016, and with the additions of Terrance West, Javarious “Buck” Allen and Kenneth Dixon over the last year-plus, Forsett is starting to feel his seat heat up.
These three additions have complementary talents that make Forsett redundant in the Ravens’ current group of backs.
West was a fan favorite in Baltimore in the 2014 pre-draft process. A local product of Towson University, there were numerous fans hoping to see his name called, yet they were disappointed watching him get drafted by the Cleveland Browns.
West showed some flashes, but seemed to suffer from being a Brown (hey, it happens). After a rough stint in Tennessee, West ended up on the Ravens practice squad last year and wound up playing six games for his hometown squad.
West has been the most impressive running back this preseason and gave Ravens fans more of a reason to believe in him Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers, racking up 25 yards and two touchdowns. He showed an impressive burst when he reached the line, but most importantly he showed excellent vision in finding the hole.
It is still early in the preseason, but West is making a serious case to be the Week 1 starter.
Dixon may have become the latest Ozzie Newsome draft steal when the Ravens drafted him 134th overall in the 4th round. Dixon was well known for his ability to catch passes out of the backfield and drew a lot of comparisons to Dion Lewis of the New England Patriots.
However, he is showing an ability to run the ball as well and, in particular, shows great burst and quickness. Dixon possesses vision and acceleration to get through the line and once he is in the second level he has the lateral quickness and top speed to make defenders in the second level miss.
He possesses the “big play” ability where he can take any carry for 20+ yards. Comparisons to Seattle Seahawks RB Thomas Rawls can be seen in Dixon’s game.
Javarious “Buck” Allen
Allen became the starter in Week 12 when Forsett suffered his broken arm. With QB Joe Flacco sidelined the offense seemed doomed. Yet, Buck showed some impressive flashes. In particular, he showed his ability to catch passes, and finished the season with 45 catches, 358 yards and two receiving touchdowns, as well as adding 514 yards and another score on the ground.
Buck doesn’t blow you away in the run game. He seems to lack quickness and acceleration, which causes him to get stalled at the line. However, he makes up for that with his abilities in the passing game.
He makes an intriguing candidate to be put on the field in 3rd down situations to add another threat. Ravens fans have seen Flacco’s ability to use his running back (*cough Ray Rice cough*) as a receiving threat and Buck brings that dynamic to the table.
Forsett could very soon find himself on the outside looking in. With the confirmation from Head Coach John Harbaugh that Offensive Coordinator Mark Trestman has been given the green light to take more control of the offense, we could very well see the disappearance of the zone run scheme that fit Forsett so well.
Terrance West possesses the ability to gain ground on short yardage situations, as well as be an early down back. Kenneth Dixon provides a good change of pace and a great complement to West, as well as the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Buck Allen’s abilities can be used in 3rd and long situations and provide Flacco with an experienced pass catcher in the back field.
These three backs provide complementary abilities that make an OC smile while writing up a gameplan. Justin Forsett’s skill set becomes redundant if these three continue to make steps forward during preseason games and he could quickly find himself looking for a new team.
By keeping just three running backs, the Ravens would give themselves the flexibility to keep an extra guy at the crowded wideout or tight end groups.
Time to go to work Justin, because your seat is officially getting hot.