Can the Ravens improve their rushing attack in 2016?
They need to. The Ravens dropped from eighth in the NFL in rushing in 2014, to 26th in rushing in 2016. That was one reason the Ravens went from 10-6 in 2014, to 5-11 in 2015.
“Yes, I feel like we need to run the ball more, but we need to run the ball better,” coach John Harbaugh said at the “State of the Ravens” press conference. “So, those two things go hand-in-hand…To the extent we didn’t run the ball well, yes, we lost our identity a little bit and we have to be able to do that.”
Here are three issues facing the Ravens this offseason as they look to improve their running game:
1. The Ravens must become more effective running in the red zone.
The Ravens had just eight rushing touchdowns all season, tied for 21st in the NFL. Six players had more rushing touchdowns individually than the Ravens had total – DeVonta Freeman, Jeremy Hill, Adrian Peterson, and DeAngelo Williams with 11; and Cam Newton and Todd Gurley with 10. Opponents didn’t fear the Ravens’ goal-line running game, which made it difficult for the Ravens to end drives with six points.
2. The left side of the offensive line is in flux.
Kelechi Osemele played effectively at both left guard and left tackle last season, but he may be lost in free agency. Meanwhile, left tackle Eugene Monroe is coming off two injury-plagued, subpar seasons. If the Ravens lose Osemele, it may be difficult for their offensive line to improve, regardless of what happens with Monroe, or in the draft.
3. Who’s the No. 1 running back?
Actually, this could be a pleasant situation. Buck Allen had 514 yards as a rookie, and Justin Forsett (614) was on his way to another 1,000-yard season before breaking his arm. The Ravens have plenty of depth at running back with Allen, Forsett, Lorenzo Taliaferro and Terrance West. A running back by committee system could be effective if the Ravens go that route. Their depth makes them less likely to pursue a free agent running back like Matt Forte, who played for Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman when he was the Bears’ head coach.
Trestman, Harbaugh, and the Ravens staff are taking a hard look at the Ravens’ running game, and what went wrong in 2015. As Harbaugh said, the Ravens need run more, but they also need to run better.