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Can the Ravens run the ball better in 2016?

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Can the Ravens run the ball better in 2016?

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.

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Ravens agree to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst

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USA TODAY Sports

Ravens agree to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst

The Ravens have their entire 2018 draft class locked up.

The team agreed to terms with first-round pick Hayden Hurst, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Hurst's rookie contract - like all first-round picks - is a four-year deal with a team option of a fifth year. According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the 25th overall pick is due $11.1 million. 

The 24-year old, who was a walk on at South Carolina at 21-years old after being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012, finished his three-year career with 100 receptions, 1,281 yards and three touchdowns.

Standing at 6-foot-3, Hurst will be a nice addition to the TE corps with Nick Boyle and third-round draft pick Mark Andrews. 

Fellow first-round pick Lamar Jackson signed his rookie contract on June 5th.

Training camp kicks off for the Ravens July 19th. 

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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

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Ravens experimenting with getting Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson on field at same time

Since drafting Lamar Jackson, the Ravens have made it clear that Joe Flacco is their starter. That doesn't mean they're not experimenting with having them both on the field at the same time, however. 

During this week's minicamp, the team has been lining Jackson up at multiple positions. 

"Gosh, I sure like him out there helping us," coach John Harbaugh said of Jackson during Tuesday's minicamp, via ESPN.com.

"If you put two quarterbacks on the field at once, what options does it create for our offense? That's what we're trying to figure out."

While at Louisville, Jackson rushed for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns in three seasons. That's more rushing yards than No. 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley. That unique skill set could be the creative options the Ravens are looking for. 

While at the NFL Combine, however, Jackson refused to workout at any other position than QB. 

"I have a lot of fun seeing what they come up with and what they're going to come up with next," Jackson said. "We'll see where it goes. You have to use your good players."

The Ravens are already viewing Jackson as one of those 'good players.' 

"Once he gets out of the pocket, it's like watching a young Michael Vick," LB C.J. Mosley said after minicamp practice. "It's amazing to watch. When you're defending him, you just have to act like you're tagging off -- you don't want to be on the highlight reel."

Harbaugh has alluded to the fact that the rookie will be active on game days, just exactly how they get the most out of him is what's in play.

"There's a lot of considerations that go into that," Harbaugh said of using two QBs at the once. "Everybody has an opinion. I've read a few. You want to find a way to get the most out of all your guys."

While Flacco isn't the fasted QB in the league, he has shown glimpses of running ability in the past. Figuring out how to utilize Flacco when Jackson is under center is where things will get interesting.

Interesting - as long as it works - is what Ravens fans have been searching for over the last several seasons. 

"Joe has to be able to do other things if [Jackson is] throwing the ball," Harbaugh said. "It gets the creative juices flowing for our offensive coaches, and they've worked hard on that."

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