A Full Backfield

Ravens Training Camp

Rice And Rejuvenated Mcgahee Give Redskins Double Trouble

August 15, 2009|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

When it comes to their running back battle, the Ravens don't see anyone as the loser.

They just see themselves as the winner.

In Thursday night's preseason-opening 23-0 rout of the Washington Redskins, the Ravens revealed a glimpse of a dangerous, two-pronged attack with Ray Rice and Willis McGahee.

Starting the game, Rice hit the edges as a runner and turned a short pass into a long gain as a receiver. When McGahee got his time with the starters, he ran hard up the middle in the red zone and then showed off his cutting skills for the first time since the end of last season.

"When we're both healthy, we're a great duo," Rice said. "You can't game-plan for me and then game-plan for Willis."

Rice and McGahee marched the starting offense down the field on its only two drives of the game. They combined for 93 of the first team's 138 yards, accounting for 67 percent of the offense.

This success came without giving the ball once to Le'Ron McClain, last year's leading rusher, who has shifted primarily to a fullback role this season.

"We've got three starters. That's what we call them," wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "When you have three guys that can run the ball the way they run it, it makes your offense that much better."

Each back gives the defense a different look.

As McGahee describes it, Rice is "the slasher" and McClain is "the bruiser."

"I try to do both," McGahee said with a smile. "We're constantly pushing [one another]. We try to stay fresh and keep the defense off balance. Each one of us brings different things to the table."

A second-round pick last season, Rice showed Thursday night how much he can affect the Ravens' passing game. In his limited appearance, he finished with more yards receiving (38) than rushing (22).

Rice jump-started the Ravens' first drive, catching a dump-off pass over the middle and turning it into a 34-yard reception.

"You've got to be able to do it all," said Rice, who was fourth on the team in receptions last season. "What we bring to the game, teams have to respect."

McGahee ran for 26 yards on four carries (a 6.5-yard average), but his effort overshadowed the numbers.

On the second drive, McGahee showed that he has fully recovered from offseason knee surgery. He made two cuts in breaking a 16-yard gain, the longest run for the Ravens on Thursday night.

A reporter pointed out to McGahee that he hadn't shown those moves in training camp.

"In training camp, you have to run straight ahead," he said. "You have to run and play the way they want you to run it. In the games, you just have to go out there and be yourself."

Asked about the Redskins' tacklers who went after his knee, McGahee said, "They did? I thought I made them miss."

Last season, McGahee dealt with injuries to his knee, eye, ribs, ankle and neck. Rice missed the final three games of the regular season with a lower leg injury.

Now, with both healthy, the Ravens' surplus at running back could help a thin receiving group.

If the Ravens can again establish a strong running game, the hope is defenses will be forced to drop a safety down into the box. That could free up the wide receivers downfield.

"We've proven that we can make plays on the outside when we're given an opportunity," Mason said. "Once we get this offense rolling like we had it at the end of last year, we're going to be a deadly team to go against each week."

Notes: : After the second play of the game, Mason came off the field, where he was met by coach John Harbaugh. "Hey, if I forgot to mention to you, Mase, glad to have you back," Harbaugh told the recently unretired wide receiver. ... The last time the Ravens shut out a team in the preseason was 2004, when they beat the Atlanta Falcons, 24-0. ... The win ended a three-game losing streak in the preseason for the Ravens. ... The Ravens released reserve wide receiver Thomas White. The team didn't immediately fill that spot on the 80-man roster.

TODAY

Practices at 8:45 a.m. and 2 p.m. (special teams)

SECOND PRESEASON GAME

Jets@Ravens, Aug. 24, 8 p.m.

TV: Ch. 11, ESPN

Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM

INSIDE

Marcus Smith out for season PG 5

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