We already know that the Ravens are going to run the ball a lot in 2014. The stars are aligned for a rejuvenated run game – a healthy Bernard Pierce and Ray Rice, new additions Lorenzo Taliferro and Justin Forsett, and an open admission from the team that their offense will heavily feature it. We have an offensive coordinator that is dedicated to the ground game and a coaching staff that wants to regain control of the clock.
So we know there will be a lot of attempts, but how many yards will come from them? Last season they ran the ball 423 times for 1321 yards, which averages out to 3.1 yards per attempt. Anemic numbers, of course, and waaay below the NFL average of 440/1687/3.8. You know it’s bad when even Joe Flacco is your third leading rusher for the season.
The Ravens essentially have two starting running backs talent wise, regardless of last year’s numbers. We are going to give them a mulligan for last season due to injuries, poor offensive line play, and a sputtering offense as a whole. We firmly believe that the 2014 season will bring a huge bounce back of sorts.
But will there be enough carries to produce two 1,000 yard rushers in the backfield? This rare feat has happened six times in the history of the league, but three have come in the last eight years. Here are the dynamic duos who have pulled it off so far:
1972 – Larry Csonka and Eugene Morris, Miami Dolphins
1976 – Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier, Pittsburgh Steelers
1985 – Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner, Cleveland Browns
2006 – Michael Vick and Warrick Dunn, Atlanta Falcons
2008 – Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward, New York Giants
2009 – Deangelo Williams and Johnathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers
While the achievement isn’t necessarily a prediction of success at a team level, it’s worth noting that the Dolphins, Steelers, and Giants all won the Super Bowl the same season they had two 1,000 yard rushers. We’ll take that 50% success rate and go with it.
Let’s assume for a minute that Ray Rice is suspended somewhere between 2-4 games, as originally speculated. This puts a big hamper in our idea, but it doesn’t completely eliminate it. In 2012, the Ravens ran the ball 444 times, which was still below the NFL average of 492 times. They averaged 4.3 yards that year and a total of 1901 yards.
We already know that the Ravens are going to run the ball more in 2014, so let’s also assume they hit 500 attempts in 2014. If they are also more productive with their attempts and average say, 4.7 yards a carry, that equals out to 2350 yards. Even if 15% of the carries go to a combination of Taliaferro/Forsett, Rice and Pierce can reach the milestone.
There are a ton of ways they can miss the mark, of course. Rice is going to get suspended, but he may be the bell cow when he returns. Pierce could rack up carries in his absence and run away with the job. Injuries could rear their ugly head again. Maybe the other guys emerge and take bigger slices of the pie.
There’s a reason why having two 1,000 yard rushers on one team has only happened six times. But there are plenty of reasons to think that it could happen again, and reason to think that it could be the Ravens who do it this time. And we’ll take that 50% chance of winning the Super Bowl with it.
Do you think the Ravens can produce two 1,000 yard rushers this year?