During the NBC broadcast of the Ravens’ 34-17 victory over the New York Jets, analyst Cris Collinsworth pointed out on more than one occasion how running back Ray Rice impacted the opposing defense when he lined up as a receiver.
When Rice flared out as a wideout, the Jets shifted their coverage and occasionally assigned cornerback Antonio Cromartie to shadow the tailback. When safety Eric Smith got the assignment, Rice ran a quick slant, caught the pass from quarterback Joe Flacco, slipped out of Smith’s diving grasp, and didn’t stop until he had completed a 52-yard gain in the first quarter.
During his weekly news conference, coach John Harbaugh was in awe at Rice’s abilities in the passing game.
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“I’ll tell you, I marveled at that catch he made across the middle,” Harbaugh said on Monday. “When we ran that crossing route and he had a defender just draped all over him, and Joe put it in the only place he could put it, and Ray reached out and grabbed it, and then managed to pull away, and then make three guys miss and get up the sideline, he’s a legitimate, premier playmaker in the National Football League. He really has been since his rookie year. So that’s a guy that is a staple for us. He’s an anchor for us.”
Ravens defensive players like outside linebacker Jarret Johnson have a unique perspective on Rice because they witness what he can do during practice on an almost daily basis.
“He’s an elite back,” Johnson said. “He’s as good as there is in the league. Obviously, his quickness, his lateral movement is what scares defenses the most. He gets any amount of green grass, and I mean a yard, and he can make you miss. But he brings it all to the package. He’s great out of the backfield. He’s great in pass protection. You saw how physical he was picking up a couple of those blitzes yesterday. You really can’t say enough about Ray Rice. The more he touches the football, the better we are as a football team.”