Will Running Backs Be More Involved In Passing Game?


Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte caught more passes last season than all of the Ravens running backs combined. He finished fourth in the league with 102 receptions. Veteran receiver Steve Smith Sr.  is the only Raven to ever catch more passes in a season than Forte did last year, and that happened in 2005 when Smith led the NFL with 103 catches.

Simply put, Chicago loved its running back in the passing game.

The question now is whether that preference will follow new Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman to Baltimore as he adds his wrinkles to the Ravens' system.

Starting ball carrier Justin Forsett certainly likes that possibility.

"I'm excited about that – being used more, going out wide or catching passes out of the backfield," Forsett said. "With coach Trestman coming in, a lot of his backs have had a lot of passes. Even in OTAs, I've been catching a lot of balls, so I make sure I am sharp on my routes and ready to be used that way as well."

As the head coach in Chicago, Trestman helped turn Forte into one of the league's premier pass-catching running backs.

Forte had a strong pedigree as a pass catcher before working with Trestman, but his production as a receiver sky-rocketed once Trestman took over the play calling duties. Forte averaged 53.4 catches per season before Trestman arrived, and that number ballooned to an average of 88 catches the last two years.

Forsett's eyes lit up when he saw those numbers.

"When we first brought [Trestman] in and he was here, I looked at his track record," Forsett said. "That kind of let me know that I could be getting a lot more passes than I did last year."

Throwing to running backs isn't necessarily new for the Ravens, as Forsett caught 44 passes for 463 yards last year.  Ray Rice averaged 67.2 receptions a season during his five years as a starter. The Ravens like to take advantage of fullback Kyle Juszczyk's hands, and he caught 19 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown last year.

"It's a part of this offense anyway," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "Whether they are checkdowns or play-action passes, those guys have always been a part of it. We try to put those guys in position as receivers, too."

The Ravens have weapons out of the backfield, as Juszczyk thrived in a halfback/tight end role in college. Baltimore also drafted USC running back Buck Allen, who caught 41 passes for 458 receiving yards last year.

With those options at quarterback Joe Flacco's disposal, Trestman will have plenty of ways to integrate them into the passing game.

"That will be a part of what we're doing," Harbaugh said. "It'll be a big part of it."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content