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What is up with the Ravens running game?

Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Throughout the preseason, we sung the praises of the Baltimore Ravens rushing attack. But two weeks into the season, Ravens running backs across the board have not been anything special. As a team, the Ravens rushed for only 80 yards against the Browns. Terrance West had 11 carries for 42 yards. West, however, was able to put up those kind of numbers while only playing a few quarters in the preseason. Forsett had three more carries than West, but five less yards.

The Ravens were hoping for better production from their running backs based on the stellar preseason. In the Week 2 matchup against Cleveland, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had to throw the ball 45 as a result of the Ravens needing to make up a large deficit. But the backs weren’t any better against the Bills, a game where the offense was not able to get going at all.

Last week against the Bills, the offensive line was far from impressive, allowing four sacks, and struggling to open holes for running backs. This week, the group played better, not allowing any sacks, but still didn’t do a great job in opening up holes.

The Ravens are stuck in a committee at running back, a situation the Ravens likely want to get out of. But neither back has proven thus far into the regular season to be a reliable work horse back. The Ravens have always performed better on offense with a bell cow back (ex. Jamal Lewis, Ray Rice, Justin Forsett). But without a back the Ravens can give 20 plus carries to, the running game looks stale. Until someone can prove that they are clearly the guy in the Ravens backfield, the trend of low rushing outputs will continue. And the offensive line hasn’t helped them out.

Relief may be on the way, in the form of Kenneth Dixon. Dixon is out until around Week 4 or 5, but when he comes back, he may be the clarity that the Ravens need. In the third game of the preseason against the Lions, the Ravens leaned on Dixon in the first half, until he got hurt. Whether or not that is indicative of how the Ravens will use Dixon when he comes back, the rookie running back showed a ton of potential in that game, and he may very quickly become a bell cow back for the Ravens. Especially if Forsett and West continue to be underwhelming.

All aside, considering his workload, West actually played pretty well against Cleveland. The fact that the Ravens passed the ball so much to comeback was not West’s fault. West averaged nearly four yards per rush on his eleven carries. The same can’t be said for Forsett, who averaged near two yards per carry. To make a fair judgement on the state of the Ravens backfield, the Ravens need to play a game that they are in the whole time, a game where they don’t have to stray from the game plan.

Therefore, while underwhelming, it is hard to say whether Ravens backfield is or isn’t in trouble. We will need to just have patience and not panic. But the return of Kenneth Dixon is a day all Ravens fans should be keeping an eye out for.