Why Ray Rice Is the Baltimore Ravens' Most Irreplaceable Player
For years the Ravens mantra has been a defense that punched you in the mouth and a running game that kicked your teeth in right afterwards.
After Jamal Lewis left in 2006, Baltimore quickly found his heir apparent in 2008 second-round pick Ray Rice. He's developed into a complete player, an offensive weapon and, in my opinion, the Ravens' most irreplaceable player.
Here are some reasons why:
Skills on the Field
Ray Rice uses his unique size to his advantage. His low center of gravity makes him hard to tackle, and he's excellent at making guys miss.
Want proof? Here ya go.
Rice is extremely shifty in the open field and has the type of burst that almost guarantees his four yards on every carry. Very rarely will you see the two-time Pro Bowler tackled for a loss.
He's also proven to be extremely durable. Since taking over the starting role in 2009 he has yet to miss a game.
Coming out of Rutgers in 2008 I didn't expect much from Rice, but it became obvious pretty quickly that he was a different kind of player.
In 2011, he led the NFL in yards from scrimmage, touching the ball on seemingly every other play. The biggest difference between Ray Rice and his peers is his impact in the passing game. He has 139 catches over the last two seasons and actually led the Ravens in catches in 2011.
Whenever a play breaks down Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco looks for his running back to make things happen, and more often than not, he does.
There are very few running backs in the NFL that can do what Ray Rice does.
You can see the proof by simply looking around the league on Sundays. A majority of teams employ a committee of players to produce the numbers that Rice puts up. Maybe this is due to the NFL turning into a passing league, or maybe it's the level of talent at the position these days. Hard to say.
There are a handful of guys (McCoy, S-Jax, Foster, Peterson, CK2K) but the workhorse running back is definitely an endangered species, and the Ravens are lucky to have one of the best wearing purple and black.
Impact off the Field
Ray Rice is not your average professional athlete.
If you follow him on Twitter you probably already know that. Rice is a kid at heart and doesn't take himself too seriously. I haven't heard a single fan say anything negative about the guy after meeting him. During this offseason, Rice has spent a good amount of his time campaigning against cyber-bullying and teaching kids in the area about the problems he faced growing up in the projects of New Rochelle, NY.
He has had a huge impact on the community here in Baltimore and started the Ray Rice Charitable Fund to help underprivileged children in the area.
In the end, I fully expect to see Ray Rice on the field when training camp starts. He's obviously upset about the lack of a long-term contract, but he also understands that the NFL is a business.
Rice is far and away the best offensive weapon on the Ravens roster. Without him on the field, Baltimore is a completely different team, so while I don't think a long-term deal for a running back makes much sense, making your star player happy does.
Hopefully the two sides will reach a happy medium along the way, and Ravens fans will see their diminutive hero produce in Baltimore for years to come.
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