The backbone of modern day football has always been the running game. In the 1920’s, it’s all they knew how to do. There weren’t any passes out of an I-formation on a slant route for a 55 yard touchdown. It was as simple as “when I say ‘hut’, take the ball and go as far as you can.”
The rest is history.
In Ravens history, there have only been two running backs who have proven to be the king of the backfield while donning the purple and black during their reign. Their names:
Jamal Lewis and Ray Rice.
The duo add up to major accolades, including Super Bowl Champions (XXXV & XLVII respectively) and combined owners of almost every Ravens rushing record in franchise history. Remarkable feat, but there can only be one undisputed king. Let’s see who it is.
J. Lewis R. Rice
Career Rushing Attempts 1,822 1,430
Career Rushing Yards 7,801 6,180
Career Rushing Average 4.3 4.3
Career Rushing Long 82 70
Career Rushing Touchdowns 45 37
# of 100+ Rushing Games 30 18
Most Consecutive Games
w/a rushing TD 4 4
From the looks of it, Jamal Lewis dominates his leading successor Ray Rice in practically every category. That should end the debate right?
A running back can really prove some value when they show off some receiving ability out of the backfield. So between Lewis and Rice, who comes out on top?
J. Lewis R. Rice
Career Receptions 160 467
Career Receiving Yards 1,365 3,034
Career Rushing Average 8.53 8.22
Career Rushing Long 77 63
Career Rushing Touchdowns 2 6
Interesting. Looks like it is Mr. Rice that has the edge as the receiving threat out of the backfield. But who’s the undisputed king here? Is it the ground and pound muscle of Jamal Lewis or the dual threat Ray Rice?
Oct 20, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice (27) runs the ball past Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley (56) during the second half at Heinz Field. The Steelers won the game, 19-16. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
While you think on that, let’s us look at one more important piece to the puzzle of the backfield, the fullback. Every hero has a sidekick (or at least someone that watches their back regularly).
There haven’t been many fullbacks in Ravens history, but for those who have graced the field, there are two who really left a mark.
Vonta Leach and Le’Ron McClain.
Here’s the deal with these two. Leach was known to be a bruising, blocking, space creating fullback who made his running back look unstoppable. However, McClain has very impressive rushing stats and was a comparable fill-in in between J. Lewis’ departure and Ray Rice’s arrival.
Sep 15, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; San Diego Chargers fullback Le
McClain managed to gather 1,185 yards and 12 touchdowns in 4 years, with 2 Pro Bowl selections and 2 first team All-Pro honors.
Leach hardly put up any rushing or receiving stats, but he did receive 3 consecutive Pro Bowl selections, as well as 3 first team All-Pro honors and a Super Bowl ring, all as a Raven.
Nov 24, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens fullback Vonta Leach (44) looks on during the game against the New York Jets at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Vonta Leach had the opportunity to work closely with Ray Rice. So whereas McClain brought forth some reprieve in between time, it could also go to question that without Leach, where would Ray Rice be on the all-time rushing list in franchise history?
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So who gets the edge here? McClain or Leach? Who was the best running back? Lewis or Rice?
Regardless of which one you think was better, here’s something you definitely want to know. If last season alone was an indication of what the remainder of the next 3 years (250+ carries, 1,200+ yards and 8 TDs), a new face could rise as the undisputed king of the backfield…. this guy….
Jan 3, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Baltimore Ravens running back Justin Forsett (29) carries the ball as Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Mike Mitchell (23) defends in the second quarter during the 2014 AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports