Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Pro Bowl Watch: Ray Rice
By James Walker
It was the year of the small, speedy tailbacks in the AFC. But perhaps the lowest-profile of the miniature rushers was Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens.
The second-year tailback led the Ravens in rushing with 1,339 yards in the regular season in addition to 78 catches for 702 receiving yards. He was Baltimore's most reliable weapon and nearly tripled his rushing total from a year ago (454 yards).
But perhaps the scariest part is Rice, 23, is just scratching the surface.
"He was awfully good this year, but I do think he can get better," Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson said. "He was a tremendous workhorse at Rutgers, a do-it-all guy. I think the Ravens drafted Rice with intentions of him being their third-down guy, and he immediately exceeded those expectations to the point where they almost had to restructure the offense around his abilities."
Rice is the third tailback for the AFC in the Pro Bowl behind league-leading rusher Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans and Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Rice's production took off when he packed on additional muscle last offseason to help with durability and running between the tackles. As a rookie, Rice missed three games due to injury. This season he played in all 16 regular season games, and two more contests in the playoffs.
With fellow second-year player Joe Flacco at quarterback and Rice at tailback, Baltimore has two young players to build its offense around.
Sunday will mark Rice's first Pro Bowl appearance, but odds are it won't be his last.