Ravens’ West ex­pects big sea­son in new run scheme

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY MATTHEW PARAS

OWINGS MILLS, MD. | Lis­ten closely to Ravens run­ning back Ter­rance West and he’s will­ing to give out some fan­tasy foot­ball ad­vice.

“It would be smart to grab me,” West said. “That is the smart way to do it.”

The Ravens are count­ing on a scheme change to re­vi­tal­ize the team’s run game af­ter a dread­ful last sea­son. Bal­ti­more brought in Greg Ro­man, who helped de­sign strong rush­ing at­tacks in San Fran­cisco and Buf­falo, to be an of­fen­sive as­sis­tant and tight ends coach.

Af­ter cap­tur­ing the start­ing job from Justin Forsett in Oc­to­ber last sea­son, West is ready to be­come the Ravens’ start­ing tail­back again. And he feels con­fi­dent in Ro­man’s scheme, com­par­ing him­self to one of his idols.

“He was up there [in San Fran­cisco] with Frank Gore, and that is who I com­pare my game to — like a Frank Gore­type guy,” West said. “It is go­ing to be a big ad­van­tage for us this year.”

West looks up to Gore be­cause of the run­ning back’s pa­tience and vi­sion. He even vouched for Gore’s speed, point­ing out how he can take it the dis­tance.

Ro­man was hes­i­tant to com­pare the

two, but said West is hun­gry to cre­ate his own body of work. West has never had a 1,000-yard sea­son in the NFL, which he said is a goal of his this sea­son. In 2016, West had 774 rush­ing yards.

Ro­man’s scheme has a proven track record of dra­mat­i­cally im­prov­ing the run game. He re­lies on a down­hill at­tack with mul­ti­ple backs and tight ends, all de­signed to work as one group. Last year, the Ravens used a zone-based scheme, whereas Ro­man prefers to have more man and gap plays.

In 2016, the Ravens lacked a run game. They fin­ished 21st in rush­ing DVOA, a foot­ball out­siders met­ric which best mea­sures ef­fi­ciency against a league-av­er­age base­line. In fact, Bal­ti­more has con­stantly strug­gled to run the ball since they last made the Su­per Bowl in 2012, where they fin­ished 7th in rush­ing DVOA.

In more sim­ple num­bers, the Ravens fin­ished 28th in rush­ing yards per game with 91.4 last year. They went 8-8.

But Ro­man re­vamped the Bills’ of­fense in Buf­falo, tak­ing ad­van­tage of LeSean McCoy and quar­ter­back Ty­rod Tay­lor. In 2015, the Bills fin­ished sec­ond in rush­ing DVOA af­ter they were 28th in 2014. While Ro­man was fired by the Bills in Septem­ber 2016, Buf­falo still fin­ished first in rush­ing DVOA us­ing the same scheme.

As the 49ers’ of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor in San Fran­cisco from 2011-14, Ro­man’s rush­ing of­fense ranked in the top 10 twice (2012, 2014) in DVOA.

“I think they’re do­ing a re­mark­able job pick­ing up (the scheme),” Ro­man said. “I’m im­pressed with this group. They’re a very, very smart group. You can do a lot with that com­bi­na­tion.”

The Ravens are still fig­ur­ing out their per­son­nel, too.

Sec­ond-year run­ning back Ken­neth Dixon fig­ured to be the starter, but tore his menis­cus right be­fore train­ing camp and is out for the sea­son.

West is pro­jected to be the starter, though the Ravens added Danny Wood­head to bol­ster pass catch­ing sit­u­a­tions with his ver­sa­til­ity. There is also thirdyear back Ja­vo­rius Allen, who ran for just 34 yards in eight games last year af­ter rush­ing for 518 in 16 games in 2015.

Allen said he can only con­trol what he can con­trol when it comes to his play­ing time.

But Ravens coach John Har­baugh said Allen’s play­ing time wasn’t out of his hands. The best play­ers, Har­baugh said, see the field.

“Any­body that didn’t play last year is be­cause they didn’t play well when they got their op­por­tu­nity,” Har­baugh said.

The ul­ti­mate goal is for the run game to bal­ance the of­fense. West, who has dropped 12 pounds to help im­prove his game, said he is see­ing a com­mit­ment from the Ravens to run­ning more.

“Don’t get me wrong, we are well­bal­anced,” West said. “But this year, we have to get the run game back go­ing — that is the big key. To pass the ball, you have to have a good run game.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Bal­ti­more Ravens run­ning back Ter­rance West wants to have his first ca­reer 1,000-yard cam­paign in the NFL this sea­son.

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