The Baltimore Ravens running back group looked to be in shambles once the Ray Rice domestic assault video went viral. No one would have expected that it was seldom used Justin Forsett that would be the hero.
The Ravens have made it no secret that they would love to get Forsett to return. He had a career year in Gary Kubiak’s zone blocking scheme en route to 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns. He had 17 runs of 20-plus yards which was best in the league.
The concern with Forsett is that he turns the dreaded number 30 in October. Sure, he doesn’t have the career carries that most backs at 30 would have, but Kubiak has also departed for Denver. There is no guarantee that Forsett will excel in new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman’s plans.
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Lorenzo Taliaferro and Bernard Pierce were each given opportunities to take the job in 2014, but it was Forsett who seized the opportunity. There is no reason to believe that if Forsett goes elsewhere that the Ravens will enter the season with either as the presumed starters.
The Ravens would love to take a look at DeMarco Murray, but the finances just don’t match up to make that a realistic option. The draft offers some intriguing options, and some mock drafts have suggested the Ravens could draft a back in the first two rounds.
There are also some interesting options available in free agency if Ozzie Newsome can’t strike a deal with Forsett. Here are three players that the Ravens could have their eyes on.
While Bush has never turned out to be the phenom he was expected to be, he’s still a terrifically gifted athlete. It is no secret that if you’re going to play running back in Trestman’s system, you must be able to catch the ball out of the backfield. That’s an area where the former Heisman trophy winner excels.
He is not given enough credit for his running game, but he sports a career 4.3 yards per carry. Furthermore, the former USC star averaged 1,026 yards between 2011 and 2013 before seeing his playing time diminish a year ago due to a lingering ankle injury.
Trestman has personally witnessed what Bush is capable of as the former Chicago Bears coach. It would be up to him if he thinks Bush could be a valuable part of the Ravens offense.
Here is another player with receiving skills out of the backfield, and the Ravens know him well from his years in New England. He has 1,093 yards on 124 receptions over the past two seasons, but has never been asked to carry a significant work load on the ground.
Vereen fits more as part of a committee. A move to acquire Vereen would likely be based on whether Trestman thinks Pierce or Taliaferro can handle the early downs with Vereen seeing the bulk of the work on passing downs.
Trestman has shown to favor workhorses in the backfield, evident by the heavy usage of Bears RB Matt Forte over the past two seasons. That’s no reason to think the Ravens wouldn’t consider someone of Vereen’s caliber though.
This might be the most intriguing player in this free agent class of running backs outside of Murray. Much like Murray, Spiller has always been thought of as having a high ceiling, but nagging injuries prevented him from his full potential.
There is no denying that in the open field, Spiller is a fantastic athlete that can make anyone miss. In his terrific 2012 season, he led the NFL in yards per carry and yards after contact. The knock on Spiller is injuries have limited him over the years. He suffered a broken collarbone in 2014 and finished with just 425 yards of total offense in nine games.
The Ravens could take a flier on Spiller and hope for a return to his 2012 form. If Spiller can stay healthy, he could bring dividends similar to those the Cowboys got from Murray, but at a discounted price.
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