When offensive coordinator Cam Cameron watched tape of the Ravens' first seven games during the bye week, one thing repeatedly stood out, and it wasn't the workload of Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice.
"We are at our best obviously when we execute, but when we get everybody involved," said Cameron. "The more continuity we have, the more guys we keep involved. Obviously, we know Ray Rice is a huge part of that. But we're at our best when [Anquan Boldin] is getting the ball, when Jacoby [Jones] is involved, when Torrey [Smith] is involved, and Dennis [Pitta] and Ed [Dickson] and Vonta [Leach] and our whole group."
Rice, the NFL's second leading rusher last year and the leader in yards from scrimmage, currently ranks 20th in the league with 106 carries. In the Ravens' 43-13 loss to the Houston Texans on Oct. 21, Rice totaled just nine carries for 42 yards, leading to plenty of criticism for Cameron, long a lighting rod for fan discontent.
Cameron didn't disagree with the notion that Rice needs and deserves a lot of touches, but he pointed out that other circumstances factor in, including the situation in the game. The Ravens trailed the Texans, 23-3, less than six minutes into the second quarter.
"Obviously he's touched it more than any other player in the National Football League in the last five years so we want Ray involved. But the bottom line is, we're at our best when everyone is involved," Cameron said. "Ray is a big part of what we're doing. We have to make sure that within our audible system, the audibles don't take the ball out of his hands based on what the defense might be dictating. I think there's a lot of things that factor in. Most of the time … when Ray hasn't gotten the ball the way maybe we would like as much, the situation has dictated that a little bit, too. I've overcome a 26-3 deficit a few times. I've never done it running the football in one half."
Rice is on pace for 242 carries, which would be his lowest since his rookie season. He had 291 rushes last year. The two-time Pro Bowl selection said Wednesday that he'd like to get at least 25 touches a game though he understands that's not always possible. He's had 25 or more touches just twice this season, prompting Rice to say that this is the healthiest he's felt at this point in the season in a while. Cameron wants to keep it that way.
"It's a fine line because it's a long season and no one takes hits like those running backs do, no one," Cameron said. "When you see those guys after a 25-carry game or a 30-carry game, they are not the same on Wednesday or Thursday. So we need to get him the ball more but also, as you're writing that, write the rest: within reason, the game plan. You look at some other offenses in this league that become one-dimensional with a back, you can overwork him, number one. But number two, you lose the guy and they're done. We don't want to be in a position where for some reason, something happens to him … When you add them all up at the end of the year, my bet will be that [Rice will] be, if not leading the league in yards or touches, he'll be one of the top five and that's our plan."