On the plane ride back from Houston, Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh took a seat next to
The Pro Bowl fullback had played just 14 snaps in the 43-13 loss, the lowest number during his two seasons in Baltimore. The two talked about Leach’s playing time and the role he could have the rest of the season.
"He was great, but he wants to play, and he knows he can help us,” Harbaugh said about the conversation.
Leach said that he didn’t go to the coaching staff after the loss to express frustration about his playing time, explaining that a 26-point, first-half deficit forced the Ravens into a pass-heavy approach.
"Obviously everybody wants to play and wants to be on the field, but I obviously understand the situation we were in,” Leach said. "Obviously I want to play all the time, but at the same time I know we have a lot of weapons in this offense.”
Getting Leach on the field is a priority for the Ravens in the second half of the season and Harbaugh said that he "is a big part of what we’re doing.”
The key, however, is that the Ravens don’t want to become predictable by playing Leach only when they are in traditional two-back, running situations. In addition to run blocking, Leach provides the Ravens with a number of options, as he can catch the ball out of the backfield and has even lined up at wide receiver in five-wide formations.
"We can use him on passing situations because of the great blocker that he is,” running back
Leach agrees with Rice’s notion that the offense can’t become predictable when he’s in the game, and he also stressed that he doesn’t think the Ravens should move away from the up-tempo offense they have adopted this season.
Instead, the change could come what the Ravens run using their no-huddle approach.
"I don’t think we’ll shift away from it,” Leach said. "We just have to tighten up some things and maybe do a little different stuff in our no-huddle offense – mixing run and pass and just doing a lot more stuff in our no-huddle offense.”
Since the Ravens moved to the no-huddle, Leach’s playing time has seen a slight decline.
He has been on the field for 44.5 percent (174-of-391) of the offensive snaps this season, down from the 53.3 percent (665-of-1,247) he played last season. The downward trend is not unique around the NFL, as some teams in today’s pass-driven league opt to not even keep a traditional fullback on the roster.
But Leach is a critical piece of the running game and Rice has routinely said he is the "best thing to ever happen to me.”
Now the Ravens play three of their next four games on the road, and eight of their final nine games in cold weather cities, which could mean the Ravens will lean more on Leach and the running game.
"The second half of the season, I think we just have to use him more,” Rice said. "He’s the best fullback in the league. There’s not too many of them left, and he’s just a pure, hard-nosed football player.”