The former Rutgers Scarlet Knight rushed for just 36 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown, while his colleague Bernard Pierce added a paltry 22 yards on nine carries. Needless to say, the Ravens weren’t world-beaters on the ground and that has to improve given their lack of depth at the wide receiver and tight end positions.
Baltimore has been known around the league as a staple for running the football successfully and playing good defense. They did neither in Week 1.
Rice has been a guy who has dominated the Cleveland Browns throughout his career up to his point. Given that the Ravens are facing the Browns in their home opener at M&T Bank Stadium and a coming off of a loss, you have to figure the six-year veteran running back is poised for the bright lights and big time this weekend. However, last season, Rice wasn’t exactly dominating the lowly Browns.
Last season, Rice tallied 43 carries for 147 yards (3.4 YPC) in two contests against Cleveland, while only catching 10 balls for 53 yards (YPR). He only scored one rushing touchdown in those two games. For a guy who has been regarded as one of the top running backs in the NFL, you would tend to think his numbers would be somewhat more inflated than the aforementioned statistics.
The Ravens head into Sunday’s contest somewhat deflated along the offensive line as right tackle Michael Oher is hampered with an ankle injury that he suffered in Week 1. Even though Oher is listed as probable for this weekend’s game, you have to figured that sprain will bother him somewhat as he called it the worst sprain he has suffered during his playing career. Also, center Gino Gradkowski has to face a large man in Browns defensive tackle Phil Taylor. Gradkowski is a guy who’s listed around 300 pounds, but plays 20 pounds less. Given that Taylor is a 335-pound stalwart in the middle of that defensive line, the push up front will be key for creating holes for Rice and Pierce in the backfield.
Despite the Browns having Barkevious Mingo this week along the defensive line, I don’t think he will make that much of a difference for the Browns as Rice will respond with around 200 yards from scrimmage catching passes out of the backfield on third downs and running off-tackle at some of the Browns’ defensive ends like Mingo and former Raven Paul Kruger. The key for Rice will be attacking the holes or creating his own, maintaining his balance as opposed to shifting from west-to-east in the backfield.
Bottom line? Rice is and always will be the main cog of the Ravens’ offensive machine and they go as far as he goes. If Rice is putting out touches for five yards a clip, expect the Browns to fall back on their heels and try to add an additional player in the box to attempt to stymie the Ravens’ ground game.