CINCINNATI - SEPTEMBER 19: Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens carries the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on September 19 2010 in Cincinnati Ohio. The Bengals beat the Ravens 15-10. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Last season Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice blew everyone else on the team away when it came to finding the end zone. Rice finished the season with a whopping 15 touchdowns. He tallied 12 on the ground and added another three through the air. The next closest player was rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith with his Raven rookie record seven scores.
All signs point to Rice again being the the teams touchdown leader. Mostly due to the fact that the offense is based primarily around the versatile young back. Rice is just as dangerous catching the ball out of the back field as he is taking hand offs from quarterback Joe Flacco. The diminutive Rice not only lead the team in rushing attempts but receptions as well with 76 catches on 104 attempts. That is a huge work load for any one player year in and out.
With all the signs pointing to Rice again being the team leader in scoring there are a few reasons this could change in 2012. One reason being the drafting of power running back Bernard Pierce out of Temple University. Pierce was a touchdown machine in college and could prove to be just as effective in the NFL. In Rice's first few season he was part of a trio of backs in which some of the larger "ground and pound" backs got more of the goal line carries. Willis McGahee was a touch down machine his last year in purple and black and fullback/halfback Le'Ron McCain garnered his fare share of goal line opportunities as well. Will the addition of Pierce mean less goal line carries for Rice?
Another factor that could contribute to other players finding the end zone more is the addition of Jim Caldwell as quarterbacks coach.Caldwell will by no means be running the offense but his addition does show that the team plans on passing the ball more and more. Torrey Smith showed last season that he is capable of reaching the end zone if need be and having a fully healthy Anquan Boldin for the whole season will be a great addition to the offensive production.
Then there is the Ravens duo of steadily progressing young tight ends in Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta. Pitta was easily Flacco's favorite target by years end in 2011 and Dickson has vowed to cut down on the drops so that could mean a renewed confidence in the highly athletic pass catching tight end.
There is also a log jam at the Ravens third receiver position in which many young talented players will be looking to make their mark on the team and the NFL. Jacoby Jones is a physical presence and could challenge for some red zone targets. Not to mention the sure handed Tandon Doss, LaQuan Williams and un-drafted free agent stand out Deonte Thompson who are all making a strong case for more playing time in 2012. If the Ravens find a way to be more successful in the passing game this season those touchdown numbers could end up being a bit more spread out this season and Rice may get some much needed rest.