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Two-thirds of the Ravens’ primary rushing attack was overhauled this offseason.
Welcome new backup running back Ricky Williams. Welcome new fullback Vonta Leach.
On Friday night against the Kansas City Chiefs, fans got a glimpse of what the trio can do this season.
Starting tailback Ray Rice ran seven times for 44 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown. Williams rushed four times for 14 yards, including a 6-yard blast up the middle in which he ran over one of his own linemen. Leach paved the way for both backs.
“It’s nice because I think our running backs complement each other,” Williams said. “I’m the kind of guy that likes to get downhill and run hard. Ray [Rice] definitely hits home runs. Teams are definitely going to have trouble with us this year.”
The Ravens were tied for 25th in the league last year with a 3.8 yard per carry rushing average. On Friday, they collectively averaged 4.8 yards per rush.
Part of last year’s lower numbers can be attributed to Rice not hitting as many big gains as he did in his Pro Bowl 2009 year. Rice ran the ball 53 more times in 2010, but rushed for 119 fewer yards.
Seeing Rice breaking loose and juking a Chiefs safety en route to the end zone is a sign that more could be coming.
“I always say, ‘Just get me to the safety,’” Rice said. “If you get me to the safety, it’s my job to make him miss. The offensive line did a great job and Vonta Leach [was] in front of me.”
Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron said that the plan for now is to allow Rice to keep running until he gets tired. When that happens, he’s supposed to let Cameron know and Williams will enter the game.
“We will leave a lot of it up to Ray Rice and we will be smart too because we want Ray full speed at the end of games,” Cameron said.
It wasn’t just Rice and Williams doing the damage versus Kansas City.
The right side of the offensive line, with rookie Jah Reid and right guard Oniel Cousins, also elevated its game. If that continues, and especially if Marshal Yanda can move back to guard, Baltimore should have more success running in any direction.
Seventh-round pick Anthony Allen also looked promising, running five times for 34 yards (a 6.8-yard average), including a 14-yard rumble and a touchdown. The heavy-hitting Georgia Tech product showed good vision and strong legs in breaking tackles.
“We have a lot of confidence in [Allen], and Jalen [Parmele],” Cameron said. “I like all four of our backs … So, we’ll have to substitute some guys in there, but we’ll probably play at least two, maybe three or four backs. I like these guys.”