Is Justin Forsett Saving The Ravens Offense?

Featured, Sports and Bets — October 22, 2014 at 8:10 am by

In February, new Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak was quoted saying, “I think as (Ray Rice) goes, we’ll go.”

Well, we all know what happened there.

The Ravens, without their former star, turned to a triumvirate of running backs- Rice’s former back-up Bernard Pierce, rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro, and journeyman Justin Forsett.  The feeling was that Pierce would handle the majority of the carries until Rice came back after his two game suspension.  But things quickly changed. Rice was booted off the team and Pierce got nicked up versus the Steelers.  Forsett, who had seen sizeable action in every game prior to Pierce’s injury, became the starter before the Cleveland game, almost by default. Even then, though Forsett was the starter, Taliaferro got more carries and gained more yards against the Browns.  But Forsett kept plugging away, making the most of his carries and showing the most consistency out of any back on the roster, and since that Browns game, Forsett has seen the bulk of the work out of the backfield.  Here are Forsett’s stats this season:

Forsett’s Stats Through Week 7:

87 carries/508 yards/5.8 avg/3 TDs       23 catches/118 yards/5.1 avg.   o fumbles

(Notice the 23 catches on the year.  I’d like to see him get even more work in the screen game.  Also notice the zero fumbles.)

There are plenty of reasons that Forsett has gotten the workload.  Forsett has shown decisiveness at the point of attack and has shown both shiftiness and power in the second level.  Taliaferro doesn’t have the shiftiness that Forsett has displayed and Pierce has struggled to break tackles in the second level.  Forsett, by being both elusive and powerful, has proven the more complete back of the three.  The most telling stat for a running back can be his average yards per rush.  Pierce is averaging 3.6 yards per rush, Taliaferro is averaging 4.5 yards per rush, and Forsett is averaging a mind numbing, 5.8 yards per rush.  That means, on average, if you give the ball to Justin twice, he’s gonna get you a first down and then some.   That, my fellow Ravens fans, is big time power football.

Through just seven games, it’s obvious that this offense is predicated on the run.  All the play action, misdirection plays, and bootlegs feed off of the success of the run game.  In the team’s last loss to the Colts, the running backs were only fed the ball 15 times and the offense sputtered.  This offense feeds off of balance, and a successful running attack, with a talented and consistent back, will take this team far.

Forsett is that back.  How he was plucked off the streets is beyond me.  In the absence of Rice, Forsett has taken the reins. He’s the perfect player for this one-cut zone system. Here he is scoring against the Bengals- taking the toss, running to his right, decisively hitting the running lane, and then making defenders miss en route to the score.  (Ricky Wagner throws a devastating block to spring Forsett.)

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And it’s not just about busting sweeps for big runs either.  Forsett has had tremendous success running up the middle.  According to profootballfocus.com, Forsett has 2 TDS and 272 yards on 41 carries running between the guards.  That’s a 6.63 yards per carry average while running between the guards, and that leads all backs with 20 or more carries up the middle.  Here’s Justin breaking a big one versus the Steelers:

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On both of these highlighted runs, Forsett is running through massive holes.  Sure, the line has been great this season, but even when they’re not, Forsett is gaining extra yards after contact; and he can make yards on his own.  That was evident this week against Atlanta, when the offensive line, according to profootballfocus.com, had its worst run-blocking performance of the season.  Forsett, who had a season high 23 carries, was still able to grind out tough yards and keep the running game effective at a 4.1 average yards per carry clip.  He showed toughness while continuing to be effective in the fourth quarter and he showed decisiveness and discipline by cutting and hitting the hole where he was supposed to.  With the lead and the football, 4.1 yards and a cloud of dust is an extremely effective game winning tool. This guy can handle the tough work too.

Forsett is a running back whose cutting ability and decisiveness fits the Baltimore offense perfectly.  He’s versatile enough in the passing game to play on third down and he doesn’t put the ball on the turf.  He has enough speed to get the edge and enough power to run between the guards and to finish his runs by moving forward. He is gaining the trust of this coaching staff more and more each week.

Without him, this offense misses Ray Rice’s football ability. With him, the Ravens haven’t missed a beat.

So yeah, with an offense so dependent on the success of the run game, I’d say that Justin Forsett and his stellar play is saving this Ravens offense.

Kubiak should now be saying: “I think as (Justin Forsett) goes, we’ll go.”

 

cover:  bleacherreport

 

 

 

 

 

 

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