OWINGS MILLS - In December, the Baltimore Ravens faced a New England Patriots offense that had three running backs playing significant roles.
Similar to what Baltimore had in 2008 with Ray Rice, Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain, the Patriots have three backs with different skill sets, and New England tries to take advantage of each.
LeGarrette Blount is the primary ball-carrier. He's big at 6-foot, 250 pounds, physical and tough to bring down. Steven Ridley is a little smaller than Blount at 5-11, 220, but he still has decent size and is also quicker and more explosive than Blount. And Shane Vereen is the multi-dimensional back. He's the fastest and most athletic of the three and has proven to be a weapon in the passing game.
The Ravens have Rice and Bernard Pierce, but coach John Harbaugh acknowledged that he is interested in adding a bigger, Blount-type back to help improve a running game that he called his "biggest disappointment" of this season.
"I think we need to diversify as much as we can what guys can do," Harbaugh said, noting that he has had "a lot of conversations" with general manager Ozzie Newsome, assistant GM Eric DeCosta and the team's scouts about that topic. "Yes, we want to have as many weapons as we can at our disposal. Big backs, fast backs, quick backs, route-running backs that you see around the league - we want to chase all those guys. You can't always get everything you want, but those are things that we could use."
In particular, a bigger back could help in the red zone.
The Ravens finished the season ranked second-worst in the NFL in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on only 46 percent of their possessions that stretched inside opponents' 20-yard lines.
But improving the running game as a whole will be a priority for Baltimore this offseason, and adding another running back could be part of trying to improve.
The Ravens averaged the fewest yards per carry in the league this year (3.1). Rice averaged only 3.1 yards per carry. Pierce averaged just 2.9.
"Really, we're built - and we philosophically believe - in being a rough, tough, physical offense that can run the football," Harbaugh said. "That's the way we started [in 2008], and that hasn't changed. No matter where you go with the passing game, that has got to be a staple of what we're going to do, and it wasn't this year."