The Baltimore Ravens run game could use help, and recent free agent Ryan Mathews could be the man to help them, if he can stay on the field.
Mathews was released by the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday, a move that honestly came as no surprise given Mathews’ limited success in Philadelphia and the fact that the Eagles signed LeGarrette Blount in the offseason and seem to have confidence in Wendell Smallwood.
But the Baltimore Ravens don’t have a 1,000-yard rusher. They have Terrance West as their current starter, likely with some sprinkling in of recently-signed Bobby Rainey and Anthony Allen. Yes, they signed Danny Woodhead in the offseason, but Woodhead doesn’t carry the ball much, he’s a receiving back (and an excellent one at that), and that’s what his role will be.
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West has averaged 3.9 yards per carry on his career, and last season was the best yardage total of his career with 774 yards, however he had an elusive rating of just 39.4, good for 23rd-best in the NFL.
Now, granted, West has never started a full season for an NFL team before this past year, and there’s an argument to be made that the Baltimore Ravens needed to run the ball more than they did, but I don’t believe West is the guy to help lead this team to success through his run game.
When Mathews is on the field, he’s shown he can succeed in the NFL. In 2011 and 2013, the only two years he started more than nine games, he ended the year with 1,091 yards and 1,255 yards, respectively.
Not only that, but Mathews has 2,261 yards after first contact since he first joined the league in 2010, which is good for 10th-best in the NFL during that time span, and his career 4.4 yards per carry is good for sixth-best in the NFL over that same time span.
But he’s had constant health problems. He’s appeared in all 16 games once in his entire career (2013), and this year he’s coming back from a herniated disk in his neck that ended his season last year and has kept him from practicing in the offseason and from participating in training camp.
Mathews has also had problems with fumbles, something that John Harbaugh would likely not be a fan of. In fact, Mathews has had 20 fumbles since joining the league in 2010, and that’s the most in the NFL during that time span, two ahead of both Frank Gore and Jamaal Charles.
There’s no doubt that Mathews would be a risk, both from an injury perspective and from a ball security perspective, but the Baltimore Ravens’ backfield isn’t in good shape (Pro Football Focus has them ranked as the second-worst backfield in the NFL coming into this season), and there aren’t many better options out there.
Sure, they could roll with whatever combination of West, Rainey, and Allen that they want to, but this is a team that’s got an excellent defense, and an improved passing offense, they could potentially make a serious playoff run, but the only way to do that is with balanced play-calling and a solid run game. Ryan Mathews could be the guy to help boost that run game to where it needs to be.