Patrick Ricard may be hurting his own case for remaining the NFL's only two-way player because he's just too good at offense.
The Ravens fullback/defensive lineman has split his time between offense and defense all year, with both sides being cognizant of not using him too much to tire him out on the other.
However, on Thursday, Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman indicated Ricard's offensive role could grow.
"I think we're at the point now where there's really no limit to how much we're going to use him," Roman said. "I think he's excelled enough at the fullback position. I mean, is there a better fullback in the league? I don't know."
Ricard is leading in Pro Bowl fan voting for the AFC's top fullback. This week, he took home the "Angry Runs" crown from Good Morning Football after he lowered his shoulders and bulldozed his way through several Texans tacklers.
"Project Pat" has become a crucial player in the Ravens' top-scoring offense and record-setting rushing attack, and it's clear they're better with him on the field.
He's a hammer in run blocking and has even shown enough versatility to become a receiving threat. He caught a season-high three passes for 27 yards last Sunday against the Texans.
Over the past three weeks, Ricard has been on the field for 37, 37 and 39 percent of the offensive snaps, respectively. It fluctuated more earlier in the year, and he played the fewest percentage of his snaps, 13 and 12 percent, in the Ravens' two losses in Week 3 and 4.
Part of the reason he had lower offensive snap counts in those games is because he played a season-high in defensive snaps. He was on the field for 49 percent of the snaps against the Browns, when Brandon Williams was sidelined.
But now with more defensive line depth with Domata Peko and Justin Ellis, the Ravens don't need Ricard to play as many defensive snaps.
Ricard doesn't want to give it up, however. He enjoys defense, and is still making an impact (he had a sack/strip returned for a touchdown in Cincinnati). Ricard said he thinks he could play 50 or so snaps between the two sides.
"It almost feels like I have divorced parents," Ricard joked. "My offensive coaches and defensive coaches fight over me."
Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale said there's actually no tug-of-war for Ricard's playing time between the two coordinators.
"We work together well. And I'm happy for Pat," Martindale said. "He's a Pro Bowl fullback. And he's also a good defensive tackle. But we're happy for Pat. The defensive guys get fired up when he's knocking somebody into the Gatorade over on the other bench or catching the ball out on the flat and breaking a tackle."
Stopping Todd Gurley Is Where It Starts on Defense
The Rams present many challenges offensively.
Jared Goff is sixth in passing yards in the NFL (2,783) and can make every throw. Cooper Kupp is seventh in the league in receiving yards (845) and is joined by Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks, who looks ready to return to action after a concussion.
But where it starts for the Ravens is stopping the running of three-time Pro Bowler and 2017 NFL Offensive Player of the Year Todd Gurley.
Gurley's arthritic knee has slowed his production the past two years, but he's coming off his best production of the season last week when he had 25 carries for 97 yards and caught three passes for 36 yards versus the Bears' strong defense.
"I see a really big, fast running back that can be a game-breaker any time he touches the ball. That's what I see," Martindale said.
The Rams love to use play-action passing to free up their wide receivers on deep routes. The Ravens know they'll have to be disciplined and try to take away their running game first and foremost.
"I think if we stop the run, then we won't be so fooled on play-action," safety Earl Thomas III said. "We stop Gurley and Malcolm [Brown], we'll be alright."
It's Starting to Click for Jaylon Ferguson
Coming off his first career sack last Sunday against the Texans, rookie outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson feels like he's ready to take off.
Ferguson's playing time has steadily increased throughout the season, and he was on the field for a season-high 72 percent of the defensive snaps against Houston. He made it pay off with a fumble recovery on the first drive and sack on Deshaun Watson later.
"I've been pleased with Jaylon Ferguson since he's been here, and I keep telling you guys, 'He's on the come [up]. He's on the come [up]. Watch out,'" Martindale said. "Continue to watch out, because it's really all starting to click for him, for the rookie. I was really happy with him."
Three weeks ago, Martindale would have said Ferguson's greatest improvement was in his conditioning. Now, he says it's in Ferguson's confidence in his pass rush and knowledge of the Ravens' defensive package that week.
"Overall, I feel like my game is improving week by week," Ferguson said. "The adjustment from college to the NFL, it's getting over being star struck with all these NFL athletes. Now it's coming to realize they're just nameless, faceless opponents."