Looking through the Ravens 2016 schedule, they will not square off against many dynamic running backs. One factor-back stands above the rest, but overall, the slate of running backs does not appear to be overly challenging. This could bode well for Dean Pees’ defense as they focus their efforts on improving the pass defense.
Who are the best running backs the Ravens will face next season?
1. Le’Veon Bell, Steelers
Bell would have a claim as the best all-purpose back in the league if he could stay healthy. He averaged 4.9 yards per carry and 26 receptions over six games last season before going down with a knee injury. In the early October matchup with the Ravens, Bell tallied 150 total yards and a touchdown. Bell should be the toughest test the Ravens front-seven faces all season.
2. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys
While it is unusual to project a rookie who has not proved anything above veterans, the Cowboys offensive line is too good to expect anything less than huge production from Elliott. The Cowboys line features an elite player at four of the five starting spots. They paved the way for journeymen Darren McFadden and Joe Randle to average 4.6 yards per attempt and 118 rushing yards per game last year. Elliott is a true dual-threat back who produced more than 2,000 total yards in each of the last two years for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
3. Latavius Murray, Raiders
Murray is an adequate running back, but not remarkable. In 2015, he averaged 4.0 yards per carry on 1,066 yards and six rushing touchdowns. Last season, the Ravens held him to 65 yards on 15 rushing attempts, along with 22 receiving yards. The 230-pound rusher will meet the Ravens in Week 4.
4. LeSean McCoy, Bills
‘Shady’ McCoy has lost a step. Last season, he failed to crack 1,000 yards (895) and matched his touchdown output with fumbles, at two. In 2012, McCoy beat the Ravens for 81 yards and a touchdown while playing for the Eagles. McCoy has lost some of the explosiveness and home-run ability that made him one of the best backs in the league early in his career.
5. Chris Ivory, Jaguars
Ivory gets the nod ahead of the Bengals tag-team - Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill, Patriots scatback Dion Lewis and Jets signee Matt Forte. Ivory is a power runner who broke 1,000 yards with a 4.3 average and scored seven touchdowns for the Jets last season. The Jaguars have a below average offensive line, but Ivory overcame a poor run blocking line earlier in his career when he averaged more than five yards per carry over three seasons with the Saints.