Jamison Hensley's Ravens beat: Ravens running game, by the numbers

December 09, 2010|By Jamison Hensley, The Baltimore Sun

The struggles of the Ravens' running game are best summed up in baseball terms. Too many strikeouts, not enough home runs.

The disappearance of big plays is the main reason why the Ravens have gone from an explosive rushing attack to a plodding one.

Last season, the Ravens produced 18 runs of 20 yards or more. Through 12 games this year, their running backs have managed just four.

In 2009, Ray Rice alone had four runs of 50 yards or more. This year, he hasn't broken one longer than 30 yards.

The Ravens got a jumpstart when Rice juked a defender in the hole and outran defensive backs. They got a lift anytime Willis McGahee would stiff-arm a tackler in the open field. And they got revved up when Le'Ron McClain would barrel over a linebacker and pick up another huge chuck of yards.

But these running backs have transformed from a three-headed monster into a three-headed mystery. It's a challenge for them to get a few yards past the line of scrimmage.

As a result, the Ravens' yards per carry have dramatically dropped from 4.7 in 2009 to 3.6 in 2010 — that's a decrease of more than one yard. The Ravens' yards per carry this year is tied for the second worst in the NFL.

The problem isn't the Ravens abandoning the running game. In fact, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is calling as many running plays this year (an average of 29.9) as last year (29.2).

And the problem isn't the level of competition. Seven of the Ravens' 12 games have come against run defenses ranked 19th or worse in the NFL, including the worst two (Buffalo and Denver).

The biggest change from last year has been the offensive line. Three linemen are playing different positions from the 2009 season, when the Ravens had the No. 5 rushing attack in the NFL. Offensive tackle Jared Gaither missed the entire season with a back injury, Michael Oher changed from right to left tackle, Marshal Yanda moved from right guard to right tackle and Chris Chester went from the bench to right guard.

Coach John Harbaugh has made it a priority to stop the free fall in rushing yards in recent weeks: 146, 116, 100, 92 and 43.

“We want to become a more physical offense,” Harbaugh said.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jamisonhensley

A look at the Ravens' running game under coach John Harbaugh: YearRushing att.Yards per gameYards per carry200837.0148.54.0200929.2137.54.7201029.9108.43.6*Statistics are in averages

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