As with Antonio Brown in the passing game, running back James Conner has not been given a lot to work with in terms of running lanes over the course of the past three weeks, and that was none different on Sunday night against the Baltimore Ravens.
The running back had a season-low 19 rushing yards on nine attempts, with his longest run of the day going for a colossal four yards. If you were to guess that there weren’t many holes for him to run through provided by the offensive line, then you would be right.
Take this mid-first-quarter run, which seems to be sabotaged by Terrell Suggs. The veteran outside linebacker hooked Jesse James, preventing him from getting to the linebacker at the second level, allowing him to chase Conner out of bounds for just two yards.
This run later in the first quarter reeks of the influence of C.J. Mosley, who does a nice job of two-gapping around a double-team up the middle. Conner attempted to spin to the perimeter, but was met by Tavon Young after a two-yard gain.
A few plays later, Conner did a nice job of cutting back to find the open hole, but Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle did equally fine work on the play, coming down from a deep set to fill the lane. He made the strong open-field tackle for a gain of just three yards on first and 10.
Into the second quarter, the Ravens’ front six played the run about as well as could be expected to limit the offense to just three yards on the ground. Suggs crashed inside of Marcus Gilbert, forcing Conner to the edge, where Mosley was free to make the play. Brandon Williams may have gotten away with a hold on David DeCastro here that prevented him from picking up Mosley.
On a rare 12 personnel snap, the ground game ended up losing two yards with Suggs slipping inside of Alejandro Villanueva, and Vance McDonald failing to pick him up coming over from the right side of the formation. Even had he done so, Mosley was right behind him. add in DeCastro getting pushed back to force the run in that direction, and that’s what you end up with.
The Ravens in fairness have one of the most talented and experienced defenses in the league, but this has been an issue going on three weeks now. The line definitely has to do better. In the meantime, I hesitate to say that the team is missing Le’Veon Bell’s patience to allow holes to open up on second or third effort.