Ravens Ground Game Lacking Punch

Ravens coach Brian Billick said he hasn't lost faith in Jamal Lewis. The sixth-year running back is off to his worst start of his career.

Lewis is averaging 58.4 yards in his first five games. That ranks 26th among NFL running backs.

"Jamal Lewis is a force to be reckoned with, and when it's all said and done, he will have a huge impact on our ability to run the ball," Billick said.

While Lewis has struggled, backup Chester Taylor has had success. Taylor has averaged 5.8 yards a carry, which nearly doubles Lewis' average (3.0). With about a third less carries than Lewis, Taylor has just 90 less yards.

"We're very luck to have two outstanding backs," Billick said. "We have a great deal of faith in Jamal's continued ability to be one of the better backs in the league, and we'll continue to try to highlight that."

Asked if Taylor has earned more carries, Billick said, "That's not a priority for us."

Another disparity is on the big runs.

Lewis has just one gain over 20 yards, and Taylor has two. Lewis also has been held to no gain or negative yardage on 26 percent of his carries.

Billick said Lewis' difficulties are a result of defenses devoting all of their focus to stopping him. Lewis was the NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2003, when he ran for 2,066 yards.

This season, Lewis is on pace for 934 yards.

"They're going to be very focused on a Jamal Lewis and when he's in the game," Billick said. "Their defensive calls will be dictated by a Jamal Lewis in the game based on what they think we're going to do or the style of runner that they think Jamal might be versus a Chester Taylor. Will they have to alter that thinking with Chester Taylor? Maybe."

Billick even suggested that Lewis needs more carries.

Lewis has averaged 19.6 attempts in five games this season. But in 2003, he averaged 24 carries.

"What was encouraging was he did some of his best running in the latter part of the game," Billick said. "To that end, getting the ball in Jamal's hands more -- which is always a point of interest for everybody – lends itself to the old adage that a back doesn't really get cranked up until he gets to that 20th or 25th run. That may have something to do with it. I like the way Jamal is pushing the ball."

It won't get any easier for Lewis this week. The Bears have the NFL's fourth-best run defense.

"You always have to contain a back like that," said LB Lance Briggs. "Defenses have been playing well against him this year, but don't take anything from him, he's still a good back."

Considering the Ravens have also struggled to move the ball throw the air, ranking 19th in the league, the Chicago defense will obviously key in on the five-foot-11, 245-pound Lewis.

"Jamal's a house," said MLB Brian Urlacher. "I tried to tackle him in the Pro Bowl a couple times and he's not an easy guy to bring down. He's a big boy and he runs hard. We've got our work cut out for us. We've got to stay in our gaps and be sure tacklers, that's the No. 1 thing."


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