- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 8, 2017

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Listen closely to Ravens running back Terrance West and he’s willing to give out some fantasy football advice.

“It would be smart to grab me,” West said. “That is the smart way to do it.”

The Ravens are counting on a scheme change to revitalize the team’s run game after a dreadful last season. Baltimore brought in Greg Roman, who helped design strong rushing attacks in San Francisco and Buffalo, to be an offensive assistant and tight ends coach.

After capturing the starting job from Justin Forsett in October last season, West is ready to become the Ravens’ starting tailback again. And he feels confident in Roman’s scheme, comparing himself to one of his idols.

“He was up there [in San Francisco] with Frank Gore, and that is who I compare my game to — like a Frank Gore-type guy,” West said. “It is going to be a big advantage for us this year.”

West looks up to Gore because of the running back’s patience and vision. He even vouched for Gore’s speed, pointing out how he can take it the distance.

Roman was hesitant to compare the two, but said West is hungry to create his own body of work. West has never had a 1,000-yard season in the NFL, which he said is a goal of his this season. In 2016, West had 774 rushing yards.

Roman’s scheme has a proven track record of dramatically improving the run game. He relies on a downhill attack with multiple backs and tight ends, all designed to work as one group. Last year, the Ravens used a zone-based scheme, whereas Roman prefers to have more man and gap plays.

In 2016, the Ravens lacked a run game. They finished 21st in rushing DVOA, a football outsiders metric which best measures efficiency against a league-average baseline. In fact, Baltimore has constantly struggled to run the ball since they last made the Super Bowl in 2012, where they finished 7th in rushing DVOA. 

In more simple numbers, the Ravens finished 28th in rushing yards per game with 91.4 last year. They went 8-8. 

But Roman revamped the Bills’ offense in Buffalo, taking advantage of LeSean McCoy and quarterback Tyrod Taylor. In 2015, the Bills finished second in rushing DVOA after they were 28th in 2014. While Roman was fired by the Bills in September 2016, Buffalo still finished first in rushing DVOA using the same scheme.

As the 49ers’ offensive coordinator in San Francisco from 2011-14, Roman’s rushing offense ranked in the top 10 twice (2012, 2014) in DVOA.

“I think they’re doing a remarkable job picking up (the scheme),” Roman said. “I’m impressed with this group. They’re a very, very smart group. You can do a lot with that combination.”

The Ravens are still figuring out their personnel, too. Second-year running back Kenneth Dixon figured to be the starter, but tore his meniscus right before training camp and is out for the season.

West is projected to be the starter, though the Ravens added Danny Woodhead to bolster pass catching situations with his versatility. There is also third-year back Javorius Allen, who ran for just 34 yards in eight games last year after rushing for 518 in 16 games in 2015.

Allen said he can only control what he can control when it comes to his playing time. 

But Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Allen’s playing time wasn’t out of his hands. The best players, Harbaugh said, see the field.

“Anybody that didn’t play last year is because they didn’t play well when they got their opportunity,” Harbaugh said.

The ultimate goal is for the run game to balance the offense. West, who has dropped 12 pounds to help improve his game, said he is seeing a commitment from the Ravens to running more.

“Don’t get me wrong, we are well-balanced,” West said. “But this year, we have to get the run game back going — that is the big key. To pass the ball, you have to have a good run game.”

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