In a Week 4 loss to the Oakland Raiders, Baltimore Ravens running back Terrance West proved himself as the go-to guy in the Ravens backfield. The Ravens used him in a workhorse role in the second half, and it worked very well, as West turned his 21 carries into 113 yards. The Ravens would love to get out of a running back by committee situation, but West’s performance against the Raiders is not the end of it.
The Ravens will likely get fourth round rookie running back Kenneth Dixon back on the field in Week 5. His return could put West’s role as the lead guy into serious question. ESPN’s However, West is safe for now, as ESPN’s Jamison Hensley reported on October 1st, that Dixon will be “eased back into the mix”.
No matter how long it takes the Ravens to fully ease Dixon in, it means the Ravens are back to a committee. In the third game of the preseason against the Detroit Lions, where Dixon injured his knee, he carried the ball seven times for 44 yards. That is about 6.3 yards per carry. In that game, the Ravens were using Dixon heavily in the first half. Terrance West was barely a factor in that game until Dixon hurt himself. Throughout the preseason, Dixon was clearly the most explosive back the Ravens had, and the only one who is a true home run threat.
How the two backs were used in the preseason could foreshadow how they will be used now. The Ravens showed in that game against the Lions that they like Dixon more than West. Why else would Dixon have been given the lions share of the first half carries? While the Ravens ease Dixon back in, expect West to still see a majority of the carries, but Dixon to still see a decent amount of work. I see this as somewhere around a 14-7 split of carries from West to Dixon. But that split will even out as the season progresses. It may even be even at around 10 carries apiece, and may be even as soon as Week 6 or 7.
Dixon has a major role in the Ravens backfield, and his workload in Week 5 will be indicative of what is to come. Especially with West coming off such a huge game, how the Ravens split carries between West and Dixon will be a major storyline for this game, especially against a team that can’t stop the run in the Washington Redskins.
The Ravens will need someone to emerge out of the committee quickly. Week 4 showed that the Ravens are a much better team with a one workhorse back. All of the best offenses in the NFL are the same way, committees just don’t get the job done. But as well as West played in Week 4, the Ravens are still in a committee.