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Ravens may want to add bigger running back for 2014 season

The Ravens' offense sputtered in red zone and short-yardage situations, possibly indicating a need for a bigger back.

Could LeGarrett Blount be someone the Ravens want to add a dimension to the running game in 2014?
Could LeGarrett Blount be someone the Ravens want to add a dimension to the running game in 2014?

Only one team was worse in the red zone than the Ravens this past year.

Through 16 regular season games, the Ravens only converted 46.15 percent of their red zone chances into touchdowns, which ranked 31st in the NFL, according to Only the Jaguars (43.9 percent) were worse.

That's part of the reason why Justin Tucker finished as the local media's MVP, because he was given so many chances to kick field goals when the offense couldn't finish the job.

Making matters worse was how inefficient the Ravens got as the season went on. Over the final three games, the Ravens and Giants tied for the worse red zone mark, converting touchdowns inside the 20-yard line just 20 percent of the time.

That was a major drop-off from the 2012 Super Bowl winning season, when the Ravens converted 60.32 percent of its red zone opportunities into touchdowns.

Third-down percentage was also an area the Ravens struggled in. They finished the season 20th, converting just 36 percent of third down chances. Short-yardage situations saw plenty of runs stuffed and more passing plays called than fans would've liked.

That brings this post to this point: Is it time for the Ravens to grab a bigger back in free agency?

The Ravens finished with Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce and Bernard Scott on the roster in 2013. Rice is 5-8, 212, Pierce is 6-0, 218 and Scott is 5-10, 195. (You'd have to think Scott's odds of being on the 53-man roster next year are very, very slim.)

With fullback Vonta Leach on his way out and Kyle Juszczyk more of an H-back, there could be a need for a big, short-yardage running back in Baltimore.

"I think we need to diversify as much as we can what guys can do," coach John Harbaugh told reporters Tuesday, when asked if there's a need for a bigger back on the roster. "I've had a lot of conversations with Ozzie [Newsome] and with Eric [DeCosta] and our different scouts about that, and our coaches, too. Yes, we want to have as many weapons as we can at our disposal. Big backs, fast backs, quick backs, route-running backs that you see around the league — we want to chase all those guys. You can't always get everything you want, but those are things that we could use."

If this winds up being a direction the Ravens wish to take, two names stick out as unrestricted free agents in 2014 — LeGarrette Blount and Jonathan Dwyer.

Blount, who excelled as a rookie in Tampa Bay but didn't do much until this past season with New England, is 6-0 and 250 pounds. He's tough to tackle when running downhill and has deceptive speed. With the way he performed at the end of the year, the Patriots might be wise to keep him and try and trade Stevan Ridley. But if the Ravens can grab Blount, it could serve as a much-needed compliment to Rice and Pierce.

Blount can also move piles in short-yardage situations, something Rice and Pierce struggled with, given the offensive line's inability to generate much of a push.

Dwyer is 5-11 and 230 pounds, though he had a poor offseason that led to his dismissal from the Steelers before the regular season started. Due to injuries, he found a spot with the team again with a one-year contract, though he'll be a free agent once the 2014 season is officially underway.

The Ravens want to be a downhill, run-first team. That's Harbaugh's philosophy, and as long as he's the head coach, that element will at least be attempted with his offense.

A power back could in the fold next year, given the inefficiencies this offense in certain situations. As Harbaugh said, diversifying the position could be something that could benefit the Ravens with the new year underway.