Everybody knows that running backs have a short shelf life by NFL standards, and most fall off the proverbial cliff with little or no warning. It happens to the best of them, including guys like Shaun Alexander and Ladainian Tomlinson. Guys that have a lot of wear on their tires. Guys that are approaching the magical age of 30. Guys like Marshawn Lynch and Ray Rice.
Rumblings out of Seattle suggest that Lynch is going to be part of a time share this coming season with the uber talented Christine Michael, and that he is going to skip the mandatory team minicamp next week. At 28 years old and with 1,753 (mostly punishing) career carries, Mr. Taste the Rainbow surely knows what’s coming.
Ray Rice is in a very similar situation. Heavily used in college as a feature back (910 carries in 3 seasons), he has faced similar usage in the NFL (1,430 carries in six seasons). Rice is 27 years old, and battled a hip injury last season. When he was on the field, he looked slow and old. Luckily for Rice, nobody stepped up while he struggled, including the much hyped Bernard Pierce.
The offseason brought an ugly, much publicized incident with then fiance Janay Palmer that threatens to cost Rice at least a few games on suspension. On the flip side, the Ravens have publicly stood behind him and promise that he is still a big part of their plans. But surely they realize the realities of the situation, which is why they took Lorenzo Taliaferro in the fourth round of this year’s draft.
In spite of how bad he looked last year, it may be a bit premature to start shoveling dirt on Ray Rice, former top 5 NFL running back. Along with the nagging and relentless hip injury, one could also point to the awful line play that saw few holes for anyone. It really is saying something when not a single guy on your roster can gain over 3.5 yards per carry.
While the hiring of Gary Kubiak promises to feature the running game, his zone blocking scheme tends to benefit one cut runners like Pierce the most. Still, the guy has made stars out of running backs with far less talent. And in his 19 years of coaching, Kubiak’s offenses have ranked in the top 10 in rushing yards 13 times and in the top 5 10 times.
Finally healthy and in a RB happy scheme, Rice is set up for success when and if he returns from his possible suspension. Whether he capitalizes and regains his past form or falls off that evil proverbial cliff remains to be seen.
Who do you think should be the starting running back for the Ravens this year?