Ravens run game led by Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce; Vonta Leach released

10:27 AM, Jun 12, 2013   |    comments
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OWINGS MILLS (WUSA9) -- The Ravens' rushing attack was sound in 2012, led by Pro Bowlers Ray Rice and Vonta Leach, along with rookie Bernard Pierce. Leach is now gone, but the Ravens run game indubitably has the weapons to improve in 2013.

Rice had over 1,000 rushing yards in the regular season last year, his fourth straight season to do so, along with 9 touchdowns. In the postseason, he averaged 3.6 yards per carry, and had his best playoff game against Denver in double overtime. In that game he rushed for 131 yards with a touchdown, and led the game-winning drive to put Justin Tucker in position for 47-yard field goal.

Pierce had an outstanding rookie season in 2012, with 532 yards in the regular season, and single-handedly led the rushing attack in the Ravens' first playoff game against Indianapolis.

Pierce's role will increase significantly this season, and rightfully so. Pierce's ability to cut behind the line of scrimmage and hit holes effectively is flat out impressive. Pierce getting increased reps along with Ray Rice, the tandem has the potential to be deadly. 

Run game coordinator Juan Castillo says that the run attack will be dependent upon the offensive line coach Andy Moeller, along with offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell.

"That's what offensive line coaches do," says Castillo. "Throughout the league you put the run game together, you look at the parts, and really the protection part of it too. You look at the blitzes you throw them together, and then you present them to the staff and to Coach Caldwell. That's what I'm going to do."

Castillo highlighted working with the offensive linemen, including Ryan Jensen who was drafted in the 6th round out of Colorado State-Pueblo. Another small-school lineman is center Gino Gradkowski, who was drafted in last year's fourth round out of quarterback Joe Flacco's alma mater Delaware, a DI FCS school. Castillo says he likes working with players who come from lower division schools because of his personal experience.

"I played at Texas A&I University and I coached there which is a DII school so really I never coached at a big school," says Castillo. "I went from Division-II to the NFL kind of like Ryan, [Jensen] so we have something in common."

One candidate to make up for Leach's loss is rookie fullback Kyle Juszczyk, drafted out of Harvard in this year's fourth round. Juszczyk at 6-1 and 248 pounds has the size to be efficient blocker for the running game, and he is also likely to be another weapon for Flacco. Juszczyk can effectively get yards after the catch as well.

The Ravens' run game is in a prime position with Rice and Pierce leading the way. If the duo improves upon last year, the Ravens ground game has the potential to be one of the AFC's best.


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