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Preston: Ravens’ dual threat Patrick Ricard on verge of transforming from project to significant role player

Preston: Ravens’ dual threat Patrick Ricard on verge of transforming from project to significant role player
Ravens defensive lineman Patrick Ricard (42) recovers a Green Bay Packers fumble during the third quarter of the second preseason game against the Green Bay Packers Thu., Aug. 15, 2019. Baltimore won, 26-13. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

Patrick Ricard hasn’t played much during his first two seasons with the Ravens, but that’s going to change in 2019. With each passing preseason game, he earns more playing time.

If the Ravens want to portray a physical image, Ricard is the right guy.

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“I’m just a guy who comes in, works hard, does everything he can and tries to improve my value to the team,” said Ricard, a former undrafted free-agent defensive tackle out of Maine.

Football fans root for players like Ricard. Few undrafted free agents make it in the NFL, especially from a school such as Maine, which isn’t a college power like Oklahoma or Alabama.

Ricard is engaged, has few hobbies except playing video games and is extremely polite. He spends a lot of time tinkering with his new pick-up truck, but his three cats might get more of his attention.

On the field, his stock has risen since the start of training camp because the part-time fullback, part-time defensive tackle is playing well. On defense, he has become more of a pass-rushing threat with two sacks during this preseason.

But it is on offense where you might see even more of Ricard.

The Ravens want to feature a power running game built around halfbacks Mark Ingram II and Gus Edwards. The fastest way to go downhill is to have a 300-pound fullback like Ricard. During his rookie season, he was just learning the position and he looked awkward pulling and leading around the corner.

Not anymore.

This guy is on search-and-destroy missions and runs with a purpose. The Ravens offensive line isn’t physical at the point of attack, but the team can still counter defenses with a jumbo, short-yardage package that includes tight ends Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle and Ricard as the lead blocker.

That’s pretty impressive.

“My rookie year had a big learning curve,” Ricard said. “I played on offense in high school, but we ran a double wing. It wasn’t a normal offense. Last year, I started to feel a lot more comfortable, and now we’re running the Greg Roman running offense for the second straight year."

The Ravens have even started throwing to Ricard, to the delight of his defensive teammates.

“It just makes me more valuable in our offense,” Ricard said. “When I get in there, opposing teams just can’t think it’s a run. I like getting the ball. I don’t just want to block all the time. To get the ball is like a dream come true. Of course, my defensive teammates joke around about it all the time.”

Ricard could give the Ravens defense a boost. A good, consistent pass rush has been missing in training camp, but during the past two weeks, Ricard and tackle Chris Wormley have been getting pressure inside.

Ricard has one of the best bull rush moves on the team. He is also lighter and more agile than a lot of defensive linemen. In passing situations, the backup tackle might be on the field more.

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“The increased pressure has come from learning from [defensive line coach] Joe Cullen, of gaining the understanding of when the protection slides to me, I have to slide away,” Ricard said. “Of also understanding of what I have to do, what others are doing, what games we’re playing inside. This is also my second year of having ‘Wink’ [Don Martindale] as the DC of defense, and having that foundation from last year to this year has made me more comfortable.”

Playing two positions isn’t easy. Ricard has to split between offensive and defensive meetings in the morning and afternoons, and what he misses in each of those sessions requires extra time, some of it on his own.

Moving from position to position is tougher during the regular season.

“You are involved in the game plan for both offense and defense, so sometimes you have to watch extra film,” said Ricard. “It is up to me to find out what I might have missed, but the coaches are really good with the communication. Everything is taped, so I can always go back and check out everything.”

There is also the weight issue. At 300 pounds, Ricard is heavier than a prototypical fullback and maybe a little light for a defensive tackle. Last year, Ricard played between 305 and 310 pounds, which he thought was too heavy.

But he loves the dual role. In college, he only played defensive line and was asked to explore the fullback position in his rookie season by offensive coordinator Roman. The Ravens didn’t have a legitimate fullback on the roster.

Basically, Ricard was told to knock anything out in front of him, and he didn’t care. He just wanted to make the roster. If he had to be the water boy, he’d do that too. But he is on the verge of going from a project to playing a significant role.

At the end of the season, Ricard will become a free agent. When it comes to a new deal, will he negotiate as a fullback or defensive tackle?

“I don’t know. It’s all up to my agent and what they [the Ravens] want to do here,” Ricard said. “I just come here to work and the rest will take care of itself.”

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