Greg Roman and strong running games are synonymous.
Now it sounds like the Ravens’ new offensive coordinator would like to add a premier running back to plug into his system.
“This organization has had some elite running backs over the years, and I think you’re always looking for that guy – a guy that can make things happen on his own,” Roman said on The Lounge podcast.
Roman has produced great results with some great running backs. During his four years with Roman in San Francisco (2011-2014), Frank Gore topped 1,100 yards each season. Roman then worked with LeSean McCoy in 2015 and start of 2016 in Buffalo.
Since coming to Baltimore and taking a large role in orchestrating the Ravens’ running game, Roman has helped get strong results with less heralded backs.
In 2017, Alex Collins went from being a training camp cut of the Seattle Seahawks to the Ravens’ practice squad and then one of the NFL’s biggest breakout stories with 973 rushing yards.
Collins returned as the Ravens’ starter last season, but struggled out of the gate, and rushed for just 411 yards in 10 games to begin the year before being placed on injured reserve with a foot injury.
The Ravens then turned to Gus Edwards, an undrafted rookie, and Kenneth Dixon, a 2016 fourth-round pick who played one game in the span of 23 months.
With Lamar Jackson and the read-option, run-heavy offense, the Ravens morphed into the NFL’s best running team over the second half of the season.
The running back tandem worked well together with Edwards providing more of the downhill punch and Dixon bringing a blend of everything. Edwards ran for 718 yards and averaged 5.2 yards per carry. In six games, Dixon had 333 rushing yards and averaged 5.6 yards per run.
Edwards and Dixon are slated to return in 2019. Collins is slated to be a restricted free agent, and it remains to be seen what kind of tender the Ravens will offer. Javorius Allen, who took a backseat on offense last season, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent.
“All those guys have very positive traits,” Roman said. “One is never enough in this league. You’ve got to have a stable of them.
“Running backs are all unique, very much like quarterbacks. They all have a different style. We don’t necessarily have to have three clones of the same guy.”
Ideally, every team would love to have one running back that stands out from the rest. The Ravens had that with Jamal Lewis when they won Super Bowl XXXV and with Ray Rice when they took home Super Bowl XLVII.
Both of those players were major difference-makers who made the offense go. Baltimore hasn’t had a running back like Rice – a three-time Pro Bowler – since they drafted him in the second round in 2008 and released him in 2014.
Like Roman said, it’s a player that can make big running plays happen on their own.
“We’ll get all this done for you, and if you deal with that one guy – however you deal with him – that’s how you get those big plays,” Roman said.
The Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell is expected to headline this year’s free-agent class, and a potential landing in Baltimore has made for popular chatter in recent weeks. Outside of Bell, who figures to be quite expensive, the class is led by the Saints’ Mark Ingram, Raiders’ Marshawn Lynch and Vikings’ Latavius Murray.
Most teams have looked for their new lead back in the draft. This year’s class leader is considered to be Alabama’s Josh Jacobs, who is expected to be a first-round pick.
“Elite running skills is where it starts,” Roman said. “Here’s the ball, now make it happen. We have the means to use any kind of running back with skill in a variety of ways.”