Friday night, the Jacksonville Jaguars played their first preseason game and for the first time sent offensive weapon Denard Robinson onto the field. No, "offensive weapon" isn’t the descriptor that we often use to describe playmakers. That is actually the former Michigan quarterback’s listed position on the team’s website.
Their rationale is that they see Robinson being used as a slash-type player like the Pittsburgh Steelers once did with Kordell Stewart. Robinson could play running back. He could line up as a wide receiver. He could be a returner on special teams. And we are probably going to see him as the triggerman in some option packages.
Now that the Jaguars are listing a player as an offensive weapon, we could soon see other NFL teams doing it. Who else might fit the bill? The Seattle Seahawks have a do-it-all threat in wide receiver Percy Harvin. The St. Louis Rams think they have a position-versatile player in wide receiver Tavon Austin, who starred here at Dunbar High. The New England Patriots had one in receiver-tight end Aaron Hernandez, but he is now in jail.
Let’s bring this random topic back to Baltimore. Do the Ravens have any players they could classify as an offensive weapon?
Tight end Dennis Pitta could be considered. Before he got hurt, the Ravens used him as a traditional tight end, a slot receiver and occasionally out wide to create mismatches. But while he was productive at those things, it didn’t make him unique.
The other prime candidate would be running back Ray Rice, who is arguably the NFL’s best pass-catching running back. He has averaged 1,104 rushing yards and 62.2 receptions per season during his NFL career. And he has finished in the top 10 in yards from scrimmage in each of his four seasons as a starter, including in 2011, when he led the league with 2,068.
As I wrote in today’s story about Rice potentially sharing the backfield with Bernard Pierce, Rice lined up as a wide receiver or a slot receiver on 50 plays last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Wide receivers coach Jim Hostler said Rice has rare acceleration and explosiveness, making him a threat to score every time he gets the ball on the perimeter.
Unlike other dangerous dual threats who also can line up as a wide receiver, guys like C.J. Spiller of the Buffalo Bills and Darren Sproles of the New Orleans Saints, Rice has proved he can endure the between-the-tackles pounding year after year.
And while Rice isn't expected to throw the ball often, he did toss a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Ed Dickson in 2011.
Rice is versatile enough that he could not only play a few positions, but actually play them well. That’s why he could be listed as an offensive weapon. Rice, though, might prefer to stick with his standard descriptor: Pro Bowl running back.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun