Written by Micheal Hester
It’s well-known in football that a quarterback’s best friend is a good rushing offense. A dominant run game can propel an average quarterback into new territory, numbers-wise. Put a good run game behind an elite quarterback and your offense is so much more lethal. Take Dallas, for example, in the 2014 season. Dallas’ offensive staff committed to creating a powerful, punishing run offense and it led the way to a 12-4 season. Along with that record and a playoff run, Tony Romo, coming off of a back surgery the previous season had the best season of his career, going neck-to-neck with Aaron Rodgers for the best passer rating that season.
During the 2015 season, the Ravens’ run offense wasn’t terrible but it was nothing to brag about either. Although they ranked 26th overall in rushing yards, which is terrible, John Harbaugh has repeatedly stressed the importance of getting the run game fired up for the 2016 season. Question is: do the Ravens have the running backs to get it done?
Charm City’s beloved birds will more than likely go with a running back-by-committee approach in 2016, with veteran rusher Justin Forsett leading the charge.
Forsett doesn’t have much wear and tear on his body, only eclipsing 1,000 yards once in his lengthy career. And he’s only two years removed from his 1,266 yard/8 touchdown season back in 2014, where he averaged 5.4 YPC (yards per carry) Not to mention, he’s a durable back. His 2015 season ending injury was a freak accident (Broken arm on a tackle from Rams’ DT, Aaron Donald) But en-route to having his season cut short, “J-Force” was likely on his way to having another 1,000-yard season, cut short at 641 yards and only 2 touchdowns.
Ravens’ run game is zone blocking based, where Forsett thrives in. As a matter of fact, all of the Ravens’ backs (with the exception of Hall of Fame-bound Trent Richardson) are zone scheme backs. When Forsett went down for the season, rookie Javorious “Buck” Allen stepped in and had a decent season, especially in the passing game. 45 receptions for 535 yards and 2 TDs, and 514 yards on the ground. Buck Allen had fumbling issues, which is an issue he’ll need to work on if he wants a bigger role in Baltimore’s backfield in the upcoming season.
Baltimore also drafted Louisiana Tech lighting rod-of-a-running back, Kenneth Dixon. Scouts compared Dixon to former Ravens’ rusher, Ray Rice. Almost the same build, great hands, speed, agility and vision, not to mention he’s another rusher that can run in the zone blocking scheme. Where all 3 of those running backs lack is in the power department. Neither 3 have the size and power to crash the gap up the middle and bulldoze their way to 1st downs to keep the chains moving, or against stacked boxes near the goal line for touchdowns.
That’s why the Ravens hope this is the year Lorenzo Taliferno actually stays healthy. Taliferno has shown flashes of being someone special for the Ravens’ offense. A 225lb zone scheme back, the Ravens’ are keeping their fingers crossed for him. If Lorenzo stays healthy, and since the Ravens’ offense doesn’t use fullback Kyle Juszcyk as a ball carrier. Juszcyk is actually a vital part to the Ravens offense, not just the run game but since Kyle has only carried the ball a handful of times in his NFL career, we don’t expect him to get it much more in 2016, which is why he is not really mentioned in this article. We can expect the Ravens to turn to either Taliferno, Terrence West (another power back on the roster) or Trent Richardson, if he’s healthy at any point going into the upcoming season to get the power run game going.
So here is a much-too-early prediction for the Ravens’ backfield: three backs going into the season. J-Force leading the way, Buck Allen as the #2 running back, and either Taliferno, if healthy or Dixon at number 3. With the addition of first round tackle, Ronnie Stanley, Alex Lewis, who’s garnering much praise from the coaches for his mauling blocking style, and one of the best in the game Marshall Yanda, Baltimore’s run offense should take off with the right commitment to the run. As Joe Flacco returns from an ACL tear in 2015, Charm City’s birds needs to find inspiration in the 2014 Dallas Cowboys and “run the rock” with their multi-headed backfield.
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