Ravens FB Patrick Ricard is becoming the total package on offense
Defensive linemen rarely see the field on offense unless it is as an extra blocker in the backfield or on the end of either side of the line in short yardage and or goal line situations.
It is even more rare that they play both ways on a consistent basis and extremely rare that they switch to the offensive side of the ball completely.
Four years ago, Patrick Ricard went undrafted out of the University of Maine and made the Baltimore Ravens final 53-man roster.
During his first four seasons in the league, he has gone from one of the rare two-way players in the sport to one of the best fullbacks in the game and was voted to his second straight Pro Bowl in 2020.
Ricard is already renowned for his ability and physicality as punishing run blocker and is a key cog in the Ravens revolutionary rushing attack over the past two years.
In the team’s 20-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans in the Wildcard round of the playoffs, he was a difference maker in both the running and passing game. The 6-foot-3 311-pound converted defensive lineman was targeted a career-high four times on Sunday and hauled three of them in for 26 yards.
“It felt amazing, just for the coaches to put me in that position to make those plays, and Lamar [Jackson] had a lot of great passes to me,” Ricard said. “I just had to execute, make the play, secure the ball and try to get as many yards as I could. In a game like this, it means a lot to help this offense, this team, do whatever I can – I pride myself on that.”
Two of his receptions went for first downs and the other moved the ball inside the red zone and three plays later he made the key block on rookie running back J.K. Dobbins’ five-yard touchdown run to start the second half.
“I thought it was a great job by Coach Roman,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “Pat can catch the ball and head upfield, as everybody saw. The way they were playing the defense, that area of the field became an opportunity for us. The coaches did a great job of recognizing that. We’ve had those plays in, they’re a part of the offense. That was huge for us.”
Ricard’s evolution into the complete package at the fullback position has been a remarkable one considering his physical dimensions and the fact that he hadn’t played the position since high school prior to joining the Ravens.
“I think the pass catching part … He did have good hands – you could see that,” Harbaugh said. “But running routes full speed in games, with guys buzzing around you, that’s probably not something that you could say, ‘Yes, I knew.’ It was one thing to see him … It’s hard for a 300-pound guy to come off the ball, come downhill and sort his way up to a linebacker on a lead play, but we could see that he could do that right away.
His role in the passing game had to expand this season following the departure of former first round tight end Hayden Hurst via trade during the offseason.
The Ravens were unable to find a serviceable natural player to serve as the third tight end behind starters Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle in the subsequent months.
It meant an even larger role for Ricard on offense which meant that his days of playing both way which were already fleeting each year he’s been in the league would officially come to an end.
Instead of spending time in several different position meetings, he now spends the majority of it with the tight ends and spends some time sitting in on the running back meetings as well.
“To see all the other things; the motions, the shifts [and] the pulls, that stuff is pretty remarkable just from an athletic standpoint,” said Harbaugh.
Ricard has become a weapon and reliable target out of the backfield in the passing game for reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson, especially when he roles to his right.
He is often wide open in the flat because opposing defenses forget to account for him or don’t respect him as a pass catcher which will surely change going forward since defenders will likely try to cut him down at the legs before he gets a full head of steam rather than get bulled over or taken for a piggy back ride once he gets in stride.
Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta was proactive with Ricard’s contract during his breakout year in 2019 and inked him to a two-year extension before the season was even over.
While he’ll never be the Swiss army knife nor vertical threat that former Ravens and five-time Pro Bowl fullback Kyle Juszczyk is, if his role in the offense as a pass catcher continues to evolve at its current rate, he could command an even heftier price when the current deal is set to expire.
Given DeCosta’s short yet extremely strong resume as the team’s head front office executive, he’ll try to get a new deal done a year early rather than a year late.