Baltimore Ravens: Why the Running Game Will Excel in 2011 on 1 Condition

Aaron YoungCorrespondent IIIMarch 17, 2011

Ray Rice unleased.
Ray Rice unleased.

With so much talk about the importance of the quarterback position in today’s NFL, the running back or running back committee often does not get the recognition as it used to. This is because the running game has become more of a supplementary part of the offense for many organizations.

However, one can argue that in most cases, it is necessary to have an adequate running game to succeed, too. Just one team made the 2010 NFL playoffs while recording single-digit rushing touchdowns. At the same time, none of the teams that fumbled the ball more often than they scored a rushing touchdown qualified for the playoffs.

This shows you the importance the running game still has in the NFL today. Therefore, here’s a breakdown of the running back situation of the Baltimore Ravens.

The consensus is that the Ravens’ running game was a big disappointment last season, which is probably due to the low yards per carry numbers. Ray Rice struggled with injuries for the first half of the season, which limited his big play ability, and the offensive line was not as dominant as it has been for over the last years. Still, the Ravens totaled 1,831 yards rushing on 487 carries; making that a 3.8 YPC average. 

Despite injuries, Ray Rice was brilliant for Baltimore. Not only did he pick up 1,220 yards on 307 attempts, racking up a 4.0 YPC average, but he was also dominant in the passing game for a running back. He was the receiver that had both the second-most receptions, 63 (only one behind Anquan Boldin) and he also had the second most receiving yards with 556 yards. While doing this, he never fumbled, rushed for five touchdowns and caught a pass for another.

Ray Rice is still young, but only has one year left on his contract. Since the Ravens are one of the teams that run the ball the most in the NFL, it is only natural that they get their featured back a good deal. I fully expect the Ravens to improve their running game this upcoming season, as contract years have a tendency to get the best out of running backs.

His competition, Willis McGahee, racked up 380 yards on 100 carries and was also a factor in the passing game, with 14 receptions for 55 yards. Often used in goal-line situations, Willis McGahee’s had five rushing touchdowns and one touchdown reception, also fumbling twice.

McGahee, who used to be the starting tailback for the Ravens, is set to make $6 million this upcoming season. There is no way the Ravens are going to pay him that much money to warm the bench, and his agent has stated that he expects his client to be released or traded.

Additionally, fullback Le’Ron McClain ended up with 85 rushing yards. The Baltimore organization has stated that they will let McClain test the open market this year, and are trying to boost his value by claiming that he is much more than just a fullback, but a ball carrier, too.

With McGahee on his way out and McClain possibly following him out the door, the running game becomes uncertain in Baltimore.

One thing about running backs is that if you want your featured back to stay fresh, you need someone to give him a hand with the workload. The Ravens will need another running back in 2011, whether it will be a fullback or another tailback. The fans must be asking themselves: "Who will it be?"

Comments welcome.