The Baltimore Ravens are prepping for another beastly matchup with the New England Patriots this Sunday. This matchup is one that can be won by Baltimore if they can run the ball and own the time of possession. Normally, this would be a slam dunk against a team that is 31st in the league against the run, but Ray Rice has been absolutely horrible this season. Will he recover against the Pats?
This year, Rice is at a career-low since becoming a starter, only gaining 604 yards on 197 carries averaging 3.1 yards per carry. The last time the Ravens faced such a horrible run defense, Rice went off for 131 yards on 25 carries and a touchdown against the Chicago Bears, who now have the last ranked run defense in the league.
Rice has blamed his lack of performance on injuries had earlier in the year, however, when watching the former Rutgers star play, it’s easy to see that this offensive line being horrible in zone-blocking schemes is hindering his performance. The Ravens need to go back to man-blocking schemes that use Vonta Leach more like a pounding, escorting fullback and not like another pulling linemen. There have been many run plays where they have chosen not to use Leach at all. In previous years when Leach was used to lay the wood, Rice has excelled, no matter who the opponent was. Leach has been in on less downs in favor of more receivers on the field, which is the main reason for the zone-blocking schemes. The Ravens were trying to open up the passing game more by giving Joe Flacco more options.
This Sunday, Rice will need Juan Castillo to return to the more familiar scheme in order to pull out the win on the ground. Leach needs to be leading the charge on the ground, paving the way so that our little pocket monster can return to form.