2009 Draft Prep: Rice expects to cook in 2009
The Ravens will likely rely heavily on their running game again in 2009, and Ray Rice couldn't be more excited. Our Jamey Eisenberg recently spoke to the second-year back, who expects big things from himself and his teammates in 2009.
Ray Rice has a message for everyone this year, and he wants you to hear it loud and clear. The Ravens running back is ready to show the NFL just how talented he is.
"I'm not a one-dimensional guy," Rice said in a recent phone interview with CBSSports.com. "They'll see it. I'm bringing a whole lot to the table. A lot of teams will find out what I can do this year. When the lights come on, I'm going to make plays."
Rice has the chance to be on the field a lot for Baltimore in 2009, which didn't happen in his rookie season last year. He was overshadowed by LeRon McClain and shared the ball with an injured and inconsistent Willis McGahee. Rice also suffered a calf injury toward the end of the season, which didn't allow him to fully enjoy the Ravens run to the AFC Championship Game.
But after a good offseason and some movement in the backfield, Rice comes into the season as the expected starter. With Lorenzo Neal off to Oakland, McClain has shifted back to his natural position at fullback. McGahee is still trying to work his way back into a featured role, but he's behind Rice on the depth chart.
Rice, as he said, is ready to prove he belongs as the No. 1 running back.
"I'm out here competing," Rice said. "It's everything I expected it to be. I came into camp in shape and came out ready to show the coaches that I deserve the job."
The Ravens had a surprise trio last season led by McClain, who was a converted fullback. He had 232 carries for 902 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns and also added 19 catches for 123 receiving yards and one touchdown.
McGahee, who battled numerous injuries and was limited to 13 games, had a career-low 170 carries for 671 rushing yards and seven touchdowns and 24 catches for 173 receiving yards. It was a dismal season, although he is healthy now.
Rice didn't fare much better despite being part of a heralded running back class, which was highlighted by Matt Forte, Steve Slaton and Chris Johnson. He had 107 carries for 454 rushing yards and 33 catches for 273 receiving yards in 13 games. He's still looking for his first NFL touchdown.
Rice said his goals for 2009 are to "enhance my receiving game" and stay healthy for a full season. He has the chance for a breakout year, which is why he's excited.
But before you get all giddy about Rice, keep in mind McClain and McGahee haven't gone anywhere. The Ravens running backs could remain a mess for Fantasy owners.
For as much promise as Rice provides -- he should be the first Baltimore running back drafted with a mid-round pick as a No. 3 option -- he might not be the most productive. McClain is still expected to score touchdowns, and McGahee will factor in as well. McGahee should also be considered a No. 3 Fantasy running back, and McClain should be downgraded to a No. 4 option because of his position change.
Despite his prediction of a big year, Rice is aware he won't get all the touches.
"We're all pretty good with each other," Rice said of his fellow running backs. "We're all different and can do different things. LeRon is a different running back than all of us, and Willis and I are different. We all bring different skills to the table."
Rice is also aware the Ravens will miss Neal, who left as a free agent to the Raiders. Neal has helped Corey Dillon, LaDainian Tomlinson and McClain reach the Pro Bowl, and McClain now has the unenviable task of replacing one of the best blocking fullbacks in NFL history.
"Yeah, we're going to miss Lo," Rice said. "He did great things for us. But LeRon has been doing a great job. He's an all-purpose back. He can block, run and catch."
McClain will have to clear holes for Rice to have his big year. And McGahee will likely have to stay out of the way as much as possible.
The offensive line will also have to remain at a high level, and the Ravens will count on Joe Flacco and the passing game to improve from last year as well. It's a lot to ask, but Rice isn't worried.
He believes this is a big year for his career. And he wants you to know that it's coming, no matter what hurdles he might have to overcome.
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