Ray Rice is gearing up for his seventh season with backlash and skepticism on his back. Some of it is warranted, granted. But with Rice being an exemplary citizen throughout his career, one mistake cannot wipe all of the other good deeds he's done.
Now, on the field, Rice is coming off of the worst season of his career, averaging an unheard of 3.1 yards per carry. But here's why he'll bounce back: From a heavy 225 pounds, he is down to 207, only two pounds heavier than his rookie weight. I thought the weight really hindered him, even more than his hip flexor injury. it was noticeable in 2012 but he was playing at a high level despite the fact. It was unbearable last year.
But Gary Kubiak could get him back to a Pro Bowl level. Anybody who doesn't think Rice is a good fit for the zone scheme needs to flip on the 2011 tape, where he and Vonta Leach had the ability to take over and dominate games. The games versus Houston, Week 13 at Cleveland and Week 17 at Cincinnati are the starkest examples.
Kubiak's scheme is a little different from the one Baltimore ran in 2011 as there will be more two tight end sets and it is more lateral than it is slashing. While the 2011 Ravens zone-running game was more of a "straight ahead, follow the fullback", Kubiak's version emphasizes the cutback. But the concept of zone blocking remains the same.
Kubiak churns out 1,000-yard rushers out of his behind. Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson and Travis Henry are lesser known names that have accomplished the feat. Clinton Portis, Arian Foster and the great Terrell Davis have smashed 1,000 yards, and have done it multiple times with Davis topping 2,000. Neither of those were first round picks. Portis was the highest drafted and that in the second round. It proves that the system does not necessarily need the greatest talent to be successful.
Rice will bounce back. Its a near guarantee. its also hard to be any worse than the Ravens' running game was last year. But with the new scheme and his prime weight, a bounce back is due. Oh and draft him in your fantasy team if you want to make people look stupid.