Ray Rice doesn’t need any more touches

Ray Rice deserves every bit of his new five-year, $35-million contract but doesn’t need any more touches. There’s this myth that, because we saw Ricky Williams on the field a fair amount for a backup in 2011, that Rice suffered from a lack of involvement in the offensive game plan.

However, Ricky Williams’ 108 attempts (which still really isn’t a shockingly large amount) is a product of a run-first offense and a sensible need to avoid exhausting the best player and focal point.

I took Rice first overall in the B/R fantasy experts draft last year and believe he is the league’s best running back. Grantland’s Bill Barwell believes he can claim that mantle from Adrian Peterson.

I also believe Rice suffers from at-times predictable play-calling from Cam Cameron and that his average yards/reception are hurt by the positions in which Joe Flacco dumps it off to him — and on a related note how much attention defenses can pay to Rice compared to a receiver group that struggled famously to get open.

This is partly why I think Rice’s low Elusive Rating on Pro Football Focus is a misrepresentation of how elusive a player he truly can be.

(And this might just be nit-picky semantics, but is “elusive” truly the right term for this particular PFF equation? The top five in 2011 are listed as Michael Turner, LaGarrette Blount, Ben Tate, Matt Forte and Adrian Peterson — only the latter two of which fulfill the actual meaning of the word “elusive.”

The definition should be accompanied by Darren Sproles’ picture, while Turner and Blount more resemble a bowling ball rolling forward. Elusive implies escaping with speed and making people miss. Catch me if you can. It isn’t hard to catch Turner or Blount.)

Many cite “Ricky Williams was a big part of that offense” when both criticizing Rice and also predicting more production from him. Both these notions are incorrect.

Myth-busting:

  • Williams didn’t do much to steal scores: He hit paydirt twice to Rice’s 12.
  • Rice wasn’t underused: In 2011 he ranked third in run attempts and second among backs in catches. That’s actually a pretty hefty workload as is.
  • While he might not have busted for as many long scores as some others, Rice is as good as anyone at getting more yards than he should: be it sliding past a linebacker for an extra couple yards or slipping past backfield penetration. His flat-out broken tackle numbers have been just OK, but those don’t reflect his ability to turn a tackle at the 25 into a tackle at the 22, or one at the 3-yard line into a score — which is why he’s an underrated goal-line back. As far as the goal-line sector goes, I felt they used Williams and Vonta Leach too much and Rice not enough.
  • Rice has the ability to be one of the league’s best tackle-breakers, having finished seventh in that category amongst RBs 2009. Again, offensive play predictability coupled with a lot of futile dump-offs aren’t putting Rice in the best position to raise those missed tackle or yards-after-contact numbers. I’m not saying he’s LeSean McCoy, but he’s shifty and can certainly make people miss.

More Emerick: Check out USA Today’s 2012 NFL Preview, which hit news stands a couple weeks ago including Barnes and Noble. Analysis from Thomas Emerick, Greg Cosell, David Elfin and others will certainly put some pep in your step. Or grab it here: http://onlinestore.usatoday.com/pro-football-preview-2012-p16389.aspx

Oh and hey: Follow me @ThomasEmerick if you want. I won’t tweet about what I had for lunch.

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