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Ravens' Kyle Juszczyk getting high marks for blocking in first year as starter

Ravens fullback Kyle Juszczyk.
Ravens fullback Kyle Juszczyk. (Maddie Meyer, Getty Images)

When the Ravens named Kyle Juszczyk as their new starting fullback this season, it represented a dramatic change from their previous lead blocker.

Former All-Pro fullback Vonta Leach was used as an old-school battering ram. Juszczyk had been a hybrid tight end, H-back and slot receiver at Harvard who still needed to prove himself as a rugged blocker.

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Leach predicted to The Baltimore Sun in August that Juszczyk would establish himself as a viable all-around fullback, saying: "I think Kyle will have a pretty good run with the Ravens. He's a smart guy and a tough guy who can take coaching. He doesn't act like he has everything already figured out. I think he's ready."

Through 10 games this season, Juszczyk has backed up Leach's words.

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Behind Juszczyk's blocking, the Ravens have rushed for 1,241 yards and 11 touchdowns on 283 carries and rank ninth in the NFL in rushing offense. Last year, the Ravens finished with a franchise-low for a season with 1,328 yards and seven touchdowns as they finished 30h in the NFL in rushing.

"Kyle has done a really good job," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday during his weekly news conference. "You've seen him as a receiver, obviously, and he has tremendous skills that way. He's out there playing wide receiver and things like that and does a great job. But he's hammering it up in there very well, and he has made a lot of key blocks for us inside. I think Justin Forsett appreciates him.

"He has done a good job in pass protection. He has become a very, I'd say one of the top blockers in that position in the league right now in just his second year, which it's not something he did in college. It was all new to him last year. He learned from Vonta Leach. He had a chance to watch Vonta, who is one of the best ever, so it was good for him."

Juszczyk, who caught 125 career passes for 1,576 yards and 22 touchdowns as an All-Ivy League selection, has 13 receptions for 154 yards and one touchdown this season. And Forsett has rushed for 721 yards and five touchdowns as the primary replacement for three-time Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice.

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Entering the bye, the Ravens are averaging 4.4 yards per carry.

"I feel good about where I'm at," Juszczyk said. "I'm definitely going to take advantage of this week."

Against the Titans, the Ravens rushed for 151 yards on 34 carries as Forsett rushed for 112 yards and two touchdowns.

"We stayed patient," Juszczyk said. "They were bringing a lot of blitzes early on. We knew if we kept patient we would crack one eventually. Kudos to Justin Forsett, it just shows the kind of back he is and the vision and patience he has."

awilson@baltsun.com

twitter.com/RavensInsider

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