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.