In the previous installments of this series, I covered the defensive greats of the Ravens. However, we now go to the other side of the ball, offense. The franchise may not be known for its offensive superstars, but Baltimore has surely produced some very good players on offense.
If another certain Raven was still in the league, then I may have had a tougher decision to make here. However, the decision was easy, since I couldn't bring myself to select Ray Rice here.
Jamal Lewis was the man in Baltimore for quite a few years. At the beginning of the decade, Ravens football was synonymous with legendary defense (of course), and an amazing ground game. The Ravens didn't beat their opponents from the air, they preferred a more pure approach, running the ball as much as they could.
Lewis came into the league with high expectations, as the fifth selection in the 2000 NFL Draft. As a rookie, he took over for Priest Holmes, a successful player in his own right. Lewis ran with the Ravens to their first Super Bowl, where he recorded 103 yards and a TD versus the Giants. He had a spectacular rookie year, recording 1,300+ rushing yards.
In 2001, he suffered an ACL injury, and didn't play a snap that year. However, he bounced back the next year, and posted 1,300+ rushing yards again. The Ravens weren't too concerned about his workload, as he ran the ball 308 and 309 times in his first two full seasons.
His 2003 season was one of the best performances ever by a running back. Lewis ran for 2,066 yards on 387 carries, good for a 5.3 YPC. He came just 39 yards short of Eric Dickerson's single season rushing record, and joined Dickerson, Terrell Davis, Barry Sanders, and O. J. Simpson as the only backs in the 2,000 rushing yards club. Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson would join later.
Lewis also broke a record that season, setting the mark for most rushing yards in a game, surpassing Corey Dillon's 278 yards with a 295 yard performance versus the Browns. This record would later be broken by Adrian Peterson, but just one yard, in 2007. Lewis was awarded with many accolades for his amazing performance, he received a Pro Bowl invite, All-Pro selection, AP Offensive Player of the Year, NFL RB of the Year, and the PWFA NFL MVP.
Lewis' next three campaigns in Baltimore would be nowhere near as great, but still very good, posting 1006, 906, and 1132 rushing yards respectively. In the 2007 offseason, the Ravens released Lewis, and he signed with Cleveland. His reign in Baltimore was over. He went on to post two more 1000+ yard seasons with the Browns before calling it quits after the 2009 season. He finished his NFL career with 2,542 carries for 10,607 rushing yards and 58 TDs.
Lewis is another Ravens legend, as he is a member of the Ravens 'Ring of Honor'. He is the Baltimore Ravens all-time leader in three categories, rushing attempts, yards & touchdowns. Lewis is hopefully a figure that will go down in Ravens lore forever, as he essentially was our offense for many years. Jamal truly loved the game, and I leave you with this quote from the man himself.
I don't watch that much football... I really like to play it. - Jamal Lewis