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Brown: Committing to running game key to Ravens 2017 season

Brown: Committing to running game key to Ravens 2017 season

No matter who comes back for the Ravens in 2017, their running game needs a comeback.

Only two NFL teams, the Browns and Lions, ran the ball fewer times (350) than the Ravens (367) in 2016. That made no sense. They have a quarterback in Joe Flacco who has a 3-15 record since the start of 2013 when he throws the ball 45 times or more. They had two young running backs in Terrance West (4.0 yards per carry) and Kenneth Dixon (4.3) who should have gotten more opportunities.

Yet, the Ravens kept throwing, with Flacco slinging the ball more often than any NFL quarterback except Drew Brees. If you’re baffled by that, so is Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti.

“I was really disappointed in the lack of a running game, a lack of commitment to the running game’’ Bisciotti said during his ‘’State of the Ravens’ press conference. “I don’t think we’re going to be successful putting the ball in the air 600-some times. It’s just not our identity. I think it’s bad, and I think we’ll change it.”

The Ravens could have changed it by doing what many thought they would – changing offensive coordinators. They didn’t, and bringing back Marty Mornhinweg as offensive coordinator is a leap of faith by coach John Harbaugh that will either pay off, or cost him dearly.

Harbaugh insists that both he and Mornhinweg will change the pass-run ratio to one that better suits Flacco. Harbaugh also says the Ravens will be looking to acquire another running back, hopefully one with big-play potential.

Backs like Ezekiel Elliott and Le’Veon Bell are very hard to come by. But the Ravens don’t need a back like that to have a successful running game, like in 2014, when Justin Forsett ran for 1,266 yards, and the Ravens made the playoffs.

What the Ravens do need is a more physical offensive line, to compliment the strengths of Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda. Don’t be surprised if the Ravens make one or two changes to their starting offensive line, like at center, where undersized Jeremy Zuttah is sometimes overpowered

Watch the Cowboys and Steelers in the playoffs this weekend, and you will see two teams that run the ball with arrogance. Even if you contain their running game early, they will keep running it, believing that sooner or later, they will gash you with big runs, which also takes pressure off the quarterback.

How the Ravens became so dependent on throwing the football is a mystery, but it needs to be fixed. Their 2017 season depends on it.

MORE RAVENS: Flacco had major role in keeping Mornhinweg; is that a problem?

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Ravens sign Crabtree to three-year deal

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Ravens sign Crabtree to three-year deal

The Baltimore Ravens have signed WR Michael Crabtree to a three-year deal on Friday according to general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome.

The deal is apparently worth $21 million, according to Adam Shefter.

After being released by the Raiders Thursday following the signing of Jordy Nelson, Crabtree heads to the Ravens less than 24 hours later.


The 31-year-old is coming off a 2017 season when he recorded 58 receptions for 618 yards and eight touchdowns. In 2016 he posted 89 receptions for 1,003 yards and eight touchdowns.

Since 2015, the Texas Tech product has scored 25 receiving touchdowns, the fifth-most in the NFL. Crabtree and Steelers WR Antonio Brown are the only NFL players to post at least eight touchdown catches in each of the past three seasons.


In all, Crabtree has played nine NFL seasons – six of them with San Francisco (2009-14) and three with Oakland (2015-17). The former first-round draft pick (10th overall, Texas Tech) has registered 579 receptions for 6,870 yards (11.9 avg.) and 51 touchdowns in 125 career games (122 starts).

“Michael has played very well against the Ravens, so we know firsthand the attributes he brings to the game,” Newsome said in a team statement. “He is a smart, tough, physical receiver who battles for the ball. We like his temperament and believe he is a good fit for our football team, on and off the field.”

Since he entered the NFL in 2009, Crabtree’s 51 receiving scores rank 10th among active wide receivers, while his receptions (579) are seventh, and his receiving yards (6,870) are 12th.

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Ryan Grant's health issue and why the Ravens couldn't control voiding his contract

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Ryan Grant's health issue and why the Ravens couldn't control voiding his contract

The most obvious move in the NFL this offseason was the Ravens signing a new wide receiver (or three). It was less obvious why the team decided to commit so much money to former Redskins receiver Ryan Grant.

Grant has long been beloved by his coaches and teammates, but the results have never been there on game day. He has some potential to improve if given a larger role in a team's offense, which he likely would have had in Baltimore, but it never made much sense to offer him a 4-year contract worth nearly 30 million, with $14.5 million guaranteed.

Thankfully for fans who were uninspired by the reported agreement, Grant was unable to pass his physical and will not be joining the team.


At a press conference Friday morning, GM Ozzie Newsome called the void a "medical decision" that Newsome had no control over. 

NFL insider Ian Rapoport reported that Grant is recovering from a Grade 2 sprained ankle that would need two months rest.

You have to feel for Grant, who by all accounts has worked his tail off for many years just waiting for his chance. It's never easy missing out on nearly $15 million dollars guaranteed, but Grant should be able to find work with another team.

The timing of this news, coming so soon after former Raider Michael Crabtree became available, seemed fishy to some.

At Friday's press conference, Newsome also said the team would have still pursued Crabtree if they signed Grant. 

It's probably not fair to suggest that an NFL franchise would actually so publicly back out of a deal just because another option came along, as any team with that reputation would struggle to attract future free agents. That said, it could end up working out splendidly for the team.

Besides, if all else is equal, shouldn't a team located in Baltimore be going after a guy named CRABtree?