Traditionally, the Ravens have been amongst the best running teams year in and year out. Great backs such as Priest Holmes and Jamal Lewis have had great success throughout the Ravens short history.
Ray Rice has carried that tradition and is arguably the best receiving back in the league. But early in the season, the perennial Pro Bowler along with Bernard Pierce have both averaged just 2.8 yards per carry.
These numbers are unacceptable to say the least. They put Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense in bad situations on second and third downs. In turn, Joe Flacco is forced to gain chunks of yards, which is difficult to do with a cast of inexperienced wide receivers.
But don't point fingers at Rice and Pierce. The Ravens offensive line has been the worst unit in football. So what is the problem?
There is not a singular answer to this question. New offensive line coach Juan Castillo has installed a new zone blocking scheme but the Ravens simply don't have the personnel to run this scheme.
In addition, the Ravens also lost their leader along the offensive line when Matt Birk retired. Gino Gradkowski is the new starter and has really struggled so far. Gradkowski's starting job could be in jeopardy with AQ Shipley on the roster. Also keep an eye out for Ryan Jensen. Jensen is rookie sixth round selection out of Colorado State-Pueblo and is an interesting prospect.
Jensen broke his foot in the offseason but the Ravens kept Jensen on the active roster. This says a lot about the Ravens' belief in Jensen, who could be a contributor in the future.
I don't believe the Ravens will be able to win meaningful games until they can run the ball effectively. That said, the Ravens have three meaningful games in a row against divisional opponents.
Should the Ravens struggle running the ball against the Steelers, the bye week will help this team work out their issues in the run game.
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