Ray Rice - Ravens running back

If there’s one guy in the Ravens locker room who’s happy that the season is over, it’s Ray Rice. Nothing seemed to go the poor guy’s way in 2013 and I’m sure he’s eager to get healthy and prove next season that this year was nothing more than a fluke. As a Ravens fan (and a guy who has never liked Rice’s 5 year, $40 million contract), I’m anxious to see him prove the doubters wrong too.

I just worry that Rice’s best days are far behind him — and the downward trend he’s been following the past three seasons doesn’t help to make me feel any better.

Let’s start with his attempts per season.

Ray  Rice - Rushing Attempts Per Season

Rice battled with an assortment of various injuries this season. From hips, to thighs, to hamstrings, everything seemed to limit his production. The 26 year old missed the Ravens week three pounding of the Texans and recorded just one 100+ yard game (week 11 at Chicago, 131 yards). On Sunday, John Harbaugh limited Rice is the first half and used him sporadically in the third and fourth quarters against the Bengals.

Rice’s 214 attempts are down from 257  in 2012, 291 in 2011 and his career-high 307 in 2010 due to his myriad of health concerns, but perhaps those concerns were created by overuse in his earlier years.

Ray  Rice - Rushing Yards Per Season

While it’s concerning to see Rice’s touches go down, the chart that bothers me more in the one above — his yards per season which has decreased steadily over the past three seasons. That 291 attempt season creating 1,364 yards for Rice, but things have done downhill since. Last year Rice cracked 1,000 rushing yards for the fourth straight season, in 2013 he really didn’t come close.

Ray  Rice - Rushing Yards Per Carry

There’s no question that the Ravens offensive line played a role in the overall poor performance of the offense, just ask Joe Flacco. But Rice never seemed to have that burst that we’ve become so used to seeing over the first five years of his career. This season we watched as his average yards per carry dipped to a career-low 3.1, down from 4.4 in 2012 and 4.7 in 2011. That tells me that Rice continues to lose his ability to break tackles the way he could in the earlier part of his career — an aspect of his game that made him one of the best backs in the league.

Image Credit: Keith Allison