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Running Back By Committee

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The days of the "stud" running back on a team are dwindling year by year. Now it appears that the teams that are having the most success running the ball are more and more utilizing the "running back by committee" approach. In fact, some teams are using three backs to carry the ball, at times divided into three categories. Those specific categories are the number one back, the 3rd down back and the goal line back.

For the Baltimore Ravens in 2009, that translated into Ray Rice, Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain. Their "three-headed monster" ran around, over and through the opposition with great success. In fact, not only did Rice run for over 1,000 yards in 2009, but McGahee scored over ten touchdowns and McClain earned a Pro Bowl berth as a fullback.

Surprisingly, that trio did not repeat their success in 2010 and the Ravens were actually more of a one-back team last season. In an in-depth story at SB Nation by Jon Bois, he questions, "Is the Stud-Back Dying?" Chock full of graphs and stats, Bois looks at the trend of going from a single back running game versus the multi-back running game. He shows the advantage and success that employing that running back by committee approach has had and the decreasing level of importance that finding that stud runner has diminished over the years by virtue of the later draft position that running backs are being selected in the NFL Draft.

In the stats, he shows how the Ravens were one of ten teams in 2010 that primarily utilized one running back to carry the overwhelming majority of the rushing load and how the teams that used at least two runners on a regular basis actually enjoyed greater success running the ball, albeit not by a significant margin.

Choose whatever reason you want for the Ravens, be it the increased emphasis on the passing attack, the lack of a overpowering offensive line to open holes for the running game, or the gameplan that obviously preferred to have Ray Rice carry the ball, the Ravens did not use either Willis McGahee or LeRon McClain anywhere near the amount they did so with such good success in prior seasons.

If you ask most Ravens fans, the majority would want to see the team involve more than just Rice in the rushing attack, regardless of whether or not the other runners are McGahee, McClain or another guy on the team. It just seems to make more sense, not only for the benefit of the team, but for the wear and tear on Rice, who is among one of the smaller backs in the NFL and could use the breaks every now or then.