2013 Ravens Positional Preview: Running Backs
The Ravens offense will continue to feature plenty of deep throws by its strong armed quarterback but it should also continue to be able to ground and pound opposing defenses with an excellent running game this season.
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Let’s take a look:
2013 Depth Chart:
RB – Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce, Anthony Allen, Damien Berry, Bobby Rainey
FB – Kyle Juszczyk
There is little debate that for the past four seasons Ray Rice has been the Ravens premier offensive threat. His tremendous speed, and elusiveness have made him one of the league’s best as three straight Pro Bowls will attest. A dual threat who can also catch the ball out of the backfield no player in the NFL has had more all-purpose yards since 2009. With the loss of Anquan Boldin at reciever Rice could potentially take on a larger role in the passing game this season.
No one could have expected what the Ravens really had when they drafted Bernard Pierce in the third round in 2012. He had a strong second half and was used even more under Jim Caldwell as a hard running compliment to the shifty Rice. Many are predicting even bigger things for him with a year under his belt as he and Rice could be one of the league’s most productive backfield duos this side of Houston.
Anthony Allen enters his third season in Baltimore and he hasn’t had much of a chance to showcase his abilities on offense. He only has 19 carries in his two seasons. Still he’s been able to contribute in other ways especially on Special Teams where he often would block for Jacoby Jones on returns. If you can’t find your way into the lineup that’s the way to keep a spot on the roster.
Damien Berry was on the practice squad in 2011 and seemed ready to challenge for a spot last season. Unfortunately for him he suffered a foot injury which landed him on injured reserve and looking ahead to this season to make his mark. Bobby Rainey was an undrafted free agent who was a popular star of the pre-season last year. He’s a slippery back with uncanny similarities to the incumbent Ray Rice. He earned a spot on the last season’s practice squad and was then moved to the active roster for a brief time until a knee injury ended his season.
Vonta Leach was a part of the off-season purge that saw Baltimore clearing cap space and getting younger in an attempt to return to the Super Bowl. The popular Leach was a hard nosed ball player who loved to clear lanes with bone shattering blocks. There seemed to at least be a slight possibility that he might return but it would have to be at a reduced rate. For now Baltimore found his replacement in the Fourth Round of this year’s draft – Kyle Juszczyk from Harvard who at 6’1, 248 pounds has the size to be an effective blocker. Unlike his predecessor he also has a reputation as a pass catcher who can line up in multiple positions on the field. His skill set would seem to be better suited for today’s pass happy NFL.
Predictions: Baring injury Rice should have another solid season and has the potential to notch 1,000 rushing yards for the fifth season in a row. Pierce has been the hot name of the off-season with many pundits predicting him to break out this season. I’d expect him to steal some carries away from Rice but he won’t replace him- at least not this season. P The less said about Donovan McNabb’s comments the better. Rice is one of the best in the league and until further notice will continue to produce at a high level. He isn’t the terrible fumbler that has been suggested (look it up) even though he has coughed it up a few times during his playoff career.
After Rice and Pierce the backup spots would seem wide open. But I see Anthony Allen as the number three and not because he might out play his competition. His Special Teams contributions at this stage outweigh his performance as a runner. Rainey will be a fan favorite to make the team but as usual it come down to his ability to help on Special teams perhaps as a returner. Berry could simply be the odd man out due to the numbers game.
If you love football you love Leach but it is very unlikely that he’ll be back in Baltimore which leaves Juszczyk as the lone fullback. It will be interesting to see how he is used as Caldwell seems to favor three wide sets. They could get very creative with where he lines up in the offense as well.