Entering Sunday, Ray Rice was tied for 12th in the NFL with 66 carries to go along with 16 catches. Because something good happens seemingly every time Rice touches the ball, I’ve heard numerous people say that the Ravens need to get him the ball even more. That may be true, but it’s appropriate to point out that Rice has seen a significant increase in touches compared to the first four games of last year. His 82 touches are 11 more than he had through four weeks last year when he had 60 rushes and 11 receptions. And that holds true even though Rice has played sporadically in fourth quarters because really only one of the Ravens’ games this season has been still in doubt at that point in the game.
Since the Ravens signed Bryan McCann during the bye week, there hasn’t been an opportunity to ask coach John Harbaugh about where the young cornerback fits in the team’s plans. That question will obviously be more pertinent if several of the injured members of the secondary return this week as expected. But I’d have to imagine that the Ravens, who signed McCann to a two-year deal, are hoping that he plays his biggest role in the return game. The Ravens have used Lardarius Webb and Ed Reed on returns, and their beat-up secondary simply can’t afford to lose either with an injury. I understand the importance of special teams and I know injuries happen, but they seem to happen a lot to Ravens on kickoffs and punts. Jimmy Smith, Haruki Nakamura and David Reed have all been hurt on special teams.
The Ravens have dealt with their share of injuries, but they certainly are catching a break with the timing of their matchup against the Houston Texans. Not only did the Ravens have a bye week to potentially get back some of their ailing players, but the Texans may have lost their best defensive player yesterday in a 25-20 loss to the Oakland Raiders as outside linebacker Mario Williams left in the second quarter with a pectoral injury. Williams had gotten his fifth sack of the season earlier in the game. The severity of Williams’ injury is unknown, but with All-Pro wide receiver Andre Johnson (hamstring) expected to miss the game, the Texans could be without their top offensive and defensive player.
I’m a little late – OK about a week – with this observation, but I thought one of the best moments during the Ravens’ 34-17 victory over the New York Jets eight days ago was that stretch where they ran the ball 11 straight plays spanning the third and fourth quarters. Fullback Vonta Leach and a couple of the offensive linemen kept motioning to the sidelines as if to say to them, “Let’s keep this going.” With Leach facing off against his old teammates this week, I can’t imagine he won’t be in the ears of the Ravens’ coaches, encouraging them to run it early and run it often.
Wasn’t fullback Le’Ron McClain’s main gripe when he was with the Ravens that he didn’t get to handle the ball enough? He signed with the Kansas City Chiefs in the offseason and through five games, McClain has seven carries for 17 yards, and three catches for 19 yards. And that’s on a team that lost their starting running back (Jamaal Charles) in the first quarter of Week 2 with a knee injury. Just for comparison’s sake, McClain had 13 rushes for 33 yards and seven catches for 52 yards through the first five games with the Ravens last season.