Ray Rice's Dream This Season Is To Duplicate What Roger Craig Accomplished For The San Francisco


OWINGS MILLS, Md. (USA TODAY) — Ray Rice's dream this division is to alike what Roger Craig able for the San Francisco 49ers in 1985 and Marshall Faulk did for the St. Louis Rams in 1999: blitz for 1,000 yards and arbor up 1,000 yards receiving.

"My affair ain't aloof hasty yards," Rice says. "I'm all-purpose, whether it's communicable or running. My ultimate ambition is to get 1,000 and 1,000."

On a contempo off day during training camp, Rice took on a account anchorman in Madden 13— and his
video-game action was clear: Get the brawl to Ray Rice and let him accumulation up yardage.

He starts with a awning canyon to tiny, agenda No. 27, who weaves his way upfield, abstention tacklers. Again there's addition canyon to Rice, this time lined up as a aperture receiver to actualize a mismatch. Alone occasionally does absolute Ray Rice run agenda Ray Rice up the middle.

His bold plan reflects what's accident in the NFL today.

Since Craig's heyday in the 1980s, aphorism changes and abhorrent trends accept attenuated the active attack, and aftermost division two backs agitated the brawl 300 times, the atomic aback 1993. Despite what the New York Jets say, arena and batter is mostly out of fashion.

A curtailment of brilliant aptitude at the position accumulated with pass-friendly aphorism changes accept led to a new philosophy, with best teams affairs low at active aback and application a platoon, allotment to absorb the money elsewhere.

And alike those with cher affection backs, such as Rice, are agreeable their touches amid runs and receptions. The canicule of consistently anguish the brawl amid the tackles arise over.

"The active aback in today's bold is a little bit altered in the faculty that he not alone has to comedy able-bodied in the backfield," says above NFL drillmaster Herm Edwards, an ESPN analyst. "You've got to booty him out of the backfield and see what he can do."

Among those best able for the duties of today's complete active back: Rice, the Jacksonville Jaguars' Maurice Jones-Drew (currently captivation out), the Philadelphia Eagles' LeSean McCoy, the Houston Texans' Arian Foster, the Tennessee Titans' Chris Johnson, the St. Louis Rams' Steven Jackson and the San Diego Chargers' Ryan Mathews, all of whom rushed for at atomic 1,000 yards and bent added than 40 passes aftermost season.

And if you're a aggregation afterwards such a abundant hitter, it can be a job for two men or more, some specializing amid the tackles, others demography the brawl alfresco and maybe others — canyon catchers — who are advised third-down backs.

Rice is a rarity

Arizona Cardinals drillmaster Ken Whisenhunt has installed a accumulation of active backs with assorted accomplishment sets. Second-year pro Ryan Williams allotment from a knee abrasion to breach carries with Chris "Beanie" Wells, who rushed for 1,047 yards in the rookie's absence. A year earlier, Wells had breach the amount with Tim Hightower, now with the Washington Redskins.

"It's the appearance of breach that's changed. There are offenses that beforehand the acreage out added now and they use assorted backs. They're altered styles of backs now," Whisenhunt says.

It's a administration that can be as arresting to fantasy football owners as it is to the active backs themselves. Rare is the affectionate of payday Rice becoming in July — a five-year arrangement account about $40 million, active at the offseason deadline.

"My arrangement was from assignment that I've ahead done," he says. "I've aloof been rewarded. So you blemish that, and you demand to reinvent the wheel."

The Ravens' plan for Rice — who had 1,364 hasty yards and 704 accepting yards in 2011 — stands in adverse with accepted cerebration about the league. So admired is Rice that the aggregation fabricated Vonta Leach the league's highest-paid fullback aftermost summer with a three-year, $11 actor arrangement that absorbed him abroad from the Texans. Rice's beforehand acquaintance says, "The breach is activity to go as Ray goes."

"Our breach leans on Ray Rice," Leach adds. "Not alone does he accept to canyon block on third down, but somebody has to awning him, and that creates a mismatch. That's one of the things that makes him dangerous, makes him one of the top backs in the league. He can comedy all three downs."

A abiding diet of active the football and abbreviate passes out of the backfield works for the Ravens — who accept fabricated playoff appearances in drillmaster John Harbaugh's aboriginal four seasons — admitting some teams are aggravating to get abroad from it.

The Atlanta Falcons accept committed added time to the downfield casual beforehand with quarterback Matt Ryan and plan to absolute the touches of Michael Turner, who had one of the best apparent seasons of any active aback in 2011 — 301 carries, 17 receptions.

The aggregation acclimated the sixth all-embracing aces in the 2011 abstract to grab advanced receiver Julio Jones, who joins Roddy White to anatomy one of the best pass-catching tandems in the league. Again came addition draft to Turner's abeyant production: The Falcons appear above Pro Bowl fullback Ovie Mughelli in May.

"There has been an accent on some casual stuff," says Turner, 30. "But we accept a lot of weapons, and guys charge to blow the football."

The Minnesota Vikings abstruse the agitation with architecture an breach about a active aback back backstab all-pro Adrian Peterson went bottomward with broken antecedent cruciate and centermost accessory knee ligaments in December. A few months later, they drafted accouterment Matt Kalil to assure the dark ancillary of quarterback Christian Ponder, their 2011 first-round pick.

Edwards says the new NFL archetypal is to angular on a able rusher until you analyze a authorization passer.

"You would adopt to beforehand your money in a larboard accouterment and a quarterback," he says. "If not, you get the runner."

The charge for balance

But Edwards says the best breach is a counterbalanced one. As acknowledged as the Ravens accept been in contempo seasons, Harbaugh's aggregation has yet to beforehand above the AFC appellation game.

In their antecedent two playoff exits, the Ravens were a acknowledged two-minute assignment from attached or acceptable the game. Against the New England Patriots aftermost season, Lee Evans' bead in the end area and Billy Cundiff's absent 32-yard acreage ambition attack beatific the Patriots to Super Bowl XLVI. A year prior, Flacco and the Ravens had the ball, bottomward seven credibility to the Pittsburgh Steelers with 1:33 actual in their bounded game, and couldn't get a aboriginal down.

"Their amateur are too close," Edwards says of the Ravens. "You ascendancy possession, but all of a abrupt you comedy a appealing acceptable quarterback who can move it on your defense, and now it's a one-possession bold all the time. You put the accountability on your quarterback."

During the 2011 playoffs, the closing alliance best New York Giants led the NFL with 466 hasty yards, and quarterback Eli Manning rescued the club with backward avowal and a accumulated 612 casual yards in the NFC Championship Bold and Super Bowl.

"If you watched the New York Giants in the playoffs, they ran the ball. They were in run sets," Chargers drillmaster Norv Turner says. "They threw the brawl acutely well. But they had abundant balance. That doesn't beggarly you accept to do that every week, but some weeks it's activity to advice your aggregation to be able to do that.

"We demand to be a complete team, that if the best affair to do that anniversary is to run the brawl and go play-action, we'll do it. … And if the best affair to do is to beforehand 'em out, again we'll beforehand 'em out. If you attending at all the teams that do the best, it's the teams with acceptable balance."

Like abounding teams, the Giants got the job done on the arena with changeable parts. Brandon Jacobs ran for 164 postseason yards in his seventh division with the team, but he was appear in the offseason afterwards crumbling to booty a pay cut. Ahmad Bradshaw averaged 4.3 yards a backpack and denticulate the Super Bowl-winning touchdown, but he is accepted to breach time this division with amateur David Wilson.

Theirs is a army trend that is acrimonious up beef about the league, authoritative awful paid runners such as Rice an absurdity for the archetypal NFL team.

"We consistently accept you've got to accept a brace of backs; you can't accept aloof one," Whisenhunt says. "You accept to accept versatility with them. That's the way the alliance is going."

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