In 2012, I watched the Baltimore Ravens during the regular season and many times thought to myself, “Why has Ray Rice not been nearly as involved as he should be today?” There were a couple of games in particular in which quarterback Joe Flacco threw the ball over 40 times and Rice’s carries weren’t where they should have been. It puzzled me.
In spite of that fact, the Ravens won the Super Bowl, therefore my argument a year ago is out the window. But, in 2013, my theory must be addressed if Baltimore wants to have any shot at repeating their success from 2012.
Flacco has lost two of his biggest weapons on offense. One, wideout Anquan Boldin, was traded away. The other, tight end Dennis Pitta, is out for the year due to injury. That leaves Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones as the top two targets in the passing game.
Smith is an emerging player in this league, but Jones is no where near what a legitimate wide receiver looks like — he’s far too inconsistent. For this reason, the Ravens absolutely must get Rice involved as much as possible.
Throughout his preseason action so far, Rice has been exciting to watch as usual. He has run with a burst of speed through the line that we’re used to seeing, great cutbacks and phenomenal vision in where he takes his next step. Rice not only possesses the ability to do all of these things off of a handoff or toss, but in the passing game.
Flacco will have to utilize Rice plenty in the passing game. Backup running back Bernard Pierce can spell Rice at times in the running game, but maybe even getting the two of them on the field at the same time would be something worth exploring. Splitting Rice out wide or in the slot and showing some variety could do the Ravens good, kind of like the Chicago Bears do with Matt Forte at times.
Rice is one of the very best backs in the NFL and deserves all the touches he can get, whether in the run game or through the air. He has to be utilized more than ever in 2013 because Flacco cannot be the guy to make all of the plays. He simply can’t do that. He doesn’t have the wide receiving corps to allow him to do that, thus Rice must be the focal point.
If the Ravens can give Rice anywhere from 15-222 carries per game while seeing him catch an average of 4-7 passes as well, I think they will be in good position to win any game this year. Though they have lost a lot, Rice is more than capable of being the guy to carry the load.