Baltimore Ravens Team & Depth-Chart Analysis: Running Back/Fullback
This is the second in a series of articles regarding the roster and depth chart of the Baltimore Ravens in 2011.
In this article series, I'm going to share some research, opinion and predictions about what the Ravens team will look like next season.
Every year, there are always changes on a team's roster—some more than others. Baltimore had a solid draft this year.
The Ravens will look for some of their rookies to compete for starting spots and others to provide depth and quality backup positions.
This second article will address the running back and fullback positions: what backs the Ravens have on the roster, how the spots could be ordered and the quality of this corps in 2011.
RB Ray Rice, No. 27
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Throughout the past three seasons, Ray Rice cemented his status as Baltimore's top running back.
Standing at 5'8", the burly 215-pound running back has great speed and elusiveness in the open field.
Rice struggled behind a sub-par offensive line performance in 2010, but he looks to reemerge as a dominant force in 2011.
Using his low center of gravity and speed, Rice is at his best a few yards beyond the line of scrimmage, where he can put his acceleration to use. No. 27 is also a weapon for swing passes, dump-offs, and screens, as he has good hands and can catch out of the backfield.
Don't look for Rice to go anywhere soon as the Ravens want to hang on to him as long as possible.
Barring some sort of injury, he shouldn't have any serious competition at the No. 1 running back spot.
FB LeRon McClain, No. 33
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LeRon McClain is one of the better blocking fullbacks in the NFL.
He is a power runner who has deceptive speed and is a goal-line threat. Standing at 6'0" and 260 pounds, McClain is a big guy.
Although he has been reduced to mainly a blocker with his carries steadily dropping since 2008, McClain is a powerful weapon in short-yardage situations.
With the near certainty that the Ravens will release Willis McGahee, there has been speculation that McClain could take the No. 2 running back spot and rack up some more carries.
At this point, it's not a certainty what McClain's role will be in 2011. Some speculate that the Ravens will not re-sign McClain and turn to free agency for a fullback with a lower price tag.
However, if McClain does stay with the team, he has said that he wants more carries, so the No. 2 running back is a possibility.
The Ravens could also re-sign him as a fullback or hybrid back to play both positions.
RB Jalen Parmele, No. 34
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Parmele is a speedy back who can break tackles well. In 2009, he was the Ravens' starting kick returner when Lardarius Webb tore his ACL, and he racked up 283 yards on nine kickoff returns for an average of 31.4 yards.
In his previous seasons, Parmele was not a big factor offensively for the Ravens. He has a career seven carries for 44 yards.
However, as Baltimore will almost certainly release Willis McGahee, Parmele will look to step in to provide experienced depth at running back.
Parmele could be pushed to the No. 3 RB if McClain ends up as the No. 2 or if rookie Anthony Allen outperforms him in training camp, but I envision the Ravens keeping McClain as the fullback and utilizing Parmele as the backup to Rice because he knows the Baltimore offense.
As the No. 2 back, Parmele could have a breakout season in 2011.
RB Anthony Allen, No. 35
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Anthony Allen, a seventh-round draft pick out of Georgia Tech, is a big, dreadlocked bruiser at 6'1" and 228 pounds.
In 2010, with the Yellow Jackets, Allen had 1,316 yards and seven TDs.
However, he fell in the draft due to concerns about whether he had the ability to play in a pro-style offense, as opposed to the triple-option college offense he played in at Georgia Tech.
Allen is a power running back who is at his best running downhill. He has average speed (Allen ran a 4.56 40 at the combine) but can read blocks well and pick up tough yardage.
Allen could turn out to be a steal for the Ravens as he was projected to be drafted in the fourth-to-sixth rounds.
He could come out and compete for the No. 2 RB, but will likely notch the No. 3, as he will need some time to develop and become familiar with Baltimore's offense.
RB Matt Lawrence, No. 32; RB Curtis Steele, No. 42
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The No. 4 running back spot (if the Ravens keep four RBs) will likely go to either of these two players.
Matt Lawrence was placed on the PUP list in 2010 after tearing his ACL, while Steele remained on the practice squad for the entirety of the season.
Both were undrafted—Lawrence going pro in 2008 while Steele was signed by the Ravens in 2010.
Steele is a small, 190-pound speedster who can make quick cuts and jukes to break tackles. In the 2010 preseason, he had 22 carries for 83 yards.
Lawrence weighs in at 209 pounds and is more of a hybrid back.
Both of these RBs are developing players and neither should make a big splash in 2010, but one may make the active roster to provide depth while the other stays on the practice squad.