2012 Players To Watch: Ray Rice

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 01: Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron celebrate as they walk off of the field following the 24-16 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on January 1, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice is the player to watch every season for the team. He is the focal point of the offense. Year in and out he is at the top of the league in total yards. In 2011 he lead the team in rushing attempts, receptions and touch downs. He is offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's favorite weapon. He is The favorite target of quarterback Joe Flacco and he is also complimented by the best full back in the NFL in Vonta Leach. Yep, there is no question that when you sit down to watch a Ravens game you will be watching the Ray Rice show.

Rice is a very unique player. Much of his ability comes from his can do personality and willingness to learn from the players around him. His natural talents are off the charts. He is both quick in his first steps and fast enough to out run speedy defenders for a long distance. He runs low to the ground which enables him quick lateral movement and excellent balance to out maneuver defenders in confined areas. Ray Rice is a dangerous player capable of breaking a game open at anytime with a length of the field touchdown run. With all of that said, is he the teams best option to be on the field all four downs?

Some times in the NFL you need to be able to change your rushing attack and just flat out run over defenders. Teams will find ways to stop the lateral quickness of Rice and the Ravens game plan and they will need a change of pace. If there is one weakness in Rice's game it's that he can't be that ground and pound back that the team needs from time to time when the box is stacked and both sides know the ball needs to be run. This is why the Ravens drafted Bernard Pierce out of Temple.Pierce is your prototypical big , strong smash mouth back. Behind Vonta Leach he can wear a defense down and leave them tired and unprepared for the big play ability of Ray Rice. The two could play as perfect compliments to each other. Just like Rice and Willis McGahee did two years ago. This could lead for larger numbers than expected for Pierce and more big play opportunities for Rice who could take on more of a Darren Sproles type roll with the Saints.

Of course this is all just hope and speculation but despite what most say Cam Cameron can put together quite a potent offensive attack and this year he may just have the players to do so. Now, when it comes to applying that offense and making the right plays in key situations, Cameron has been known to pull some head scratchers. However, now with the players he needs around him, maybe things will finally come together in Baltimore and the fans can see the big picture Cam has been piecing together for years now.

Well, maybe. Maybe not but a guy can dream can't he? Rice is currently awaiting, what is sure to be, a disappointing franchise tag from the Ravens and could stage a lengthy hold out. There is no telling how a player will respond over something that can be so time consuming and strenuous, Hopefully he will forgo the hold out and be happy with his seven million plus for this season and get his head back into the game to win a Super Bowl. Hopefully by some miracle an agreement can be reached where both rice will be happy and the team will not have to mortgage the future of other players.

Whatever does happen Ray Rice will most likely be on the field as the starting running back week one for the Baltimore Ravens. If that be the case he will be THE player to watch again in 2012.

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