Baltimore Ravens: Why Vonta Leach Will Have a Big Impact in 2011

Philip TaftContributor IIAugust 10, 2011

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 06:  Fullback Vonta Leach #44 of the Baltimore Ravens works out during training camp at M&T Bank Stadium on August 6, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Perhaps the biggest move the Baltimore Ravens have made in free agency thus far has been the signing of fullback Vonta Leach, formerly of the Houston Texans.

Leach, considered the best fullback in free agency, joined the Ravens fresh off his first Pro Bowl appearance in 2010. The 6’0”, 255-lb powerhouse was a formidable lead blocker for the Texans in 2010, paving the way for a 1,616-yard performance in running back Arian Foster.

Now, Baltimore has Leach, and the eight-year veteran will look to pave the way for running back Ray Rice—entering his fourth year in the league.

Baltimore had a quality fullback in the past in Le’Ron McClain, but McClain wanted more carries and his inability to fit the system of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron resulted in the ravens looking to Leach as his replacement.

Unlike McClain, Leach seems to be a perfect fit in the Ravens’ offensive system. Over the past years the formula has morphed from the “three-headed monster” of McGahee, Rice and McClain, into its most recent incarnation.  In 2010, Rice was the featured back, with McClain primarily in a blocking role and the recently-released McGahee subbing in short-yardage situations.

2011 is a horse of a different color altogether. Rice is still the featured back, but McClain and McGahee are gone. McGahee’s replacement is likely to be recently signed Ricky Williams. The veteran back is entering his 11th season in the league and turned 34 this year. Williams' workload will be lighter than McGahee’s was as he adjusts to the new offensive system and becomes comfortable in the starting rotation.

That means that for the early portion of the season, Rice will shoulder responsibilities as the Ravens’ workhorse back, and a lot of pressure will fall on Leach as his primary blocker.

When Rice is running behind a blocker like Leach, Baltimore has good reason for expecting his yards-per-carry to increase. Leach excelled last year at opening up running lanes, displaying exemplary footwork and a mean streak, and he is the perfect man to get the job done. His presence will take a lot of pressure off the Ravens’ offensive line and gives Cam Cameron the freedom to spread out his formations and put more receivers on the field.

In addition, Leach can catch passes out of the backfield and may run the ball occasionally. Although definitely not a flashy runner, Leach could be an option in short-yardage and goal-line situations.

Baltimore has acquired a weapon in Leach who should be able to step into the exact role they need him to fill.