Justin Forsett ends sensational season with huge performance


Baltimore Ravens running back Justin Forsett was one of the clear breakout stars of the 2014 season, and he took full advantage of the situation around him to post what was clearly the best season of his career at the age of 29. Forsett was a nice change-of-pace back during his productive days with the Seattle Seahawks early in his career, but nobody could have imagined him turning 235 carries into 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns as a true feature back in this league.

Forsett did exactly that, and even though his season ends with a Ravens defeat at the hands of the comeback New England Patriots, he was one of the best players on the field in yesterday’s loss. After averaging 5.4 yards per carry in the regular season to lead all backs, he dominated the Patriots on the ground with 129 yards on 24 carries for an average of, you may have guessed it, 5.4 yards per carry. His longest run went for 19 yards, so Forsett’s high YPC average came from consistent chunks of yardage, rather than one big run (that would be the Chris Johnson way).

In this league, running backs who can do it all are as important as ever, and Forsett’s all-around ability is almost as remarkable as his sky-high yards per carry average. Although his 16-yard touchdown pass was as easy as it gets (he was more than just wide open on that swing pass), Forsett has been a force as a receiver out of the backfield. He caught a career-high 44 passes this past season as an easy safety valve option for Joe Flacco, and that made him a reliable target in the passing game for the balanced Ravens offense.

Pass protection is something that some coaches like to stress with their running backs, and we’ve seen the likes of Tom Coughlin actually bench backs or openly criticize them for blitz pick-up woes. Not even the most critical head coach would have something negative to say about Forsett’s pass pro, and he regularly impressed observers against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Patriots with his ability to pick up free blitzers. Bill Belichick loves to bring in Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower, and while those two are normally forces when going after the QB, only Collins could muster a hit on Flacco.

Forsett received some tremendous blocking yesterday, and he definitely benefits from running behind the likes of Marshal Yanda, breakout guard Kelechi Osemele, and solid center Jeremy Zuttah. That said, it’s up to a running back to find those holes and accelerate through them, and there are few backs who display as good vision as Forsett, who has been a revelation in Gary Kubiak‘s offense. Armed with solid cuts and good open-field speed, Forsett isn’t a fluke, though it’s hard to see him replicating this season’s success.

Of course, Forsett doesn’t need to average over five yards per carry and post more than 1,200 rushing yards to be a success for the Ravens next season, and the 30-year-old deserves to be re-signed by this team. With Kubiak reportedly happy to stick around in Baltimore as one of the league’s best offensive coordinators, Justin Forsett’s best bet in free agency will most likely be to re-sign with the Ravens. It will be interesting to see if he’s able to get a two-year deal instead of a one-year deal, but any contract for Forsett would likely involve little-to-no guarantees with some possible incentives sprinkled in.

The production is undeniable, and the ability to make a positive impact in every facet of the game is the natural sweetener when it comes to Forsett’s game. He was easily one of the Ravens most important players, because he gave their offense clear balance, consistent yardage, and another dependable pass blocker for Flacco. Moreover, the Ravens didn’t exactly have many other options in the backfield, so Forsett’s emergence was a huge reason for their playoff appearance.

His 129-yard performance yesterday was a huge reason for their ability to come close to a victory, as Forsett was the most impressive player on an offense that spread the ball through the air rather than relying on two banged up, playmaking receivers against touch matchups in the Patriots secondary.

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