Ray Rice Still Key
Ray Rice Still Key | Chris Schisler |
After the Super Bowl, all the attention has gone towards quarterback Joe Flacco. This is well warranted; after all he did have a historic playoff run. It also may make up for Ray Rice getting all of the attention beforehand. Joe Flacco is the franchise quarterback who makes the Ravens a contender every single season. We should not forget however that Ray Rice is still the key to future successes. Rice is one of the most versatile running backs in football. He has a low center of gravity that makes him hard to tackle and he is an incredible athlete. He is not the fastest runner, and he relies on his agility and ability to quickly change directions. Ray Rice has long been the centerpiece to the Ravens offensive attack. This is largely to do with his versatility. He has proven to be an every down runner, a great receiver out of the backfield and an adequate blocker. Teams once believed if you could stop Ray Rice, who earned over half the Ravens’ yards, you could stop the Ravens. This was proven false when new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell told Flacco to let it fly. Now Joe Flacco has proven the ability to win games on his arm consistently. Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones have proven to be threats to burn past any corner. Dennis Pitta has proven to be as Terrell Suggs boasts “The white tight end baby! He’s everywhere you want to be!” In summation the Ravens offense is now multifaceted and dynamic in both the run and the pass. As the Ravens offense continues to evolve without the hindrance of Cam Cameron, they must keep Ray Rice in mind.
The idea that Ray Rice is the entire offense may be proven false, but he is still one Baltimore’s best weapons. If the Ravens can incorporate more big plays from Rice, early in games it will set up offensive explosions for everyone. Most defenses don’t concern themselves too heavily on the short passes, assuming their players can rally to the football. As witnessed in San Diego last season Ray Rice must be accounted for on every play, even if he is just Flacco’s safety valve. Ray Rice must be incorporated into the passing game early and often. Ray Rice is a mismatch for virtually every linebacker and may end up being accounted for by defensive backs. Dennis Pitta should reap the reward from this, especially on short passes in the middle of the field.
The Ravens hired Luis Castillo to be the offensive line coach. Castillo will undoubtedly implement more zone running schemes into the offense. The idea behind this is to get big chunks of yards out of the ground attack. Rice is perfect for this type of approach because of his ability to cutback and great instinctual running. Big plays in the running game will set up big plays in the passing game. If the Ravens can dominate on the ground, defenses will surely be forced to put 8 men in the box. The deep threat wide receivers should see a lot of man coverage and there may be many chances at the long bomb, Flacco throws so well.
Bernard Peirce will also play a big factor in the running game too. He is the perfect complement to Ray Rice. With the running game there is no “tell” because of the back in the game. The problem however is the Peirce is much less versatile in the passing game. For my vision of the Ravens offense to become whole, I need to Peirce to develop in the passing game. With Rice you have the option of lining him in the slot or motioning him to be a wide out. The Ravens would feel far less confident with Peirce doing these things. If Peirce can match the versatility of Ray Rice the offense will become unpredictable. The offense needs to be more creative. This is especially true. You may notice the New Orleans Saints are good at using presnap motion to make the defense tip it’s hand. Imagine having Ray Rice in the backfield behind Flacco. Ray Rice motions out and becomes a receiver. The defense has to adjust to this. Flacco now sees the defense react, and knows where to go with the ball. Now imagine Rice is lined up at wide receiver on another play. Rice motions into the backfield. Imagine the possibilities. A little creativity makes the offense less predictable. If football is like a game of chess, than Rice is the Queen. There is virtually no limit to the options Ray Rice provides.
The Ravens are in transition. We all know that this is Joe Flacco’s team. This does not mean the running back is any less important, in fact Ray Rice has never been more critical. It is essential that the Ravens make defenses obsess about stopping Ray Rice. It will open up the passing game. Ray Rice is the key to making the Baltimore the “big play offense” it can and should be.