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News » McClain punishes defenses, with or without ball

McClain punishes defenses, with or without ball

McClain punishes defenses, with or without ball
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) - Le'Ron McClain is built to punish opposing defenses, usually as a bruising fullback running in front of a slick-footed ball carrier.

That was how the Baltimore Ravens used the 6-foot, 260-pounder as a rookie last season. During training camp, however, an injury to Willis McGahee and the addition of fullback Lorenzo Neal enabled offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to try something different.

Cameron wanted to see what would happen if McClain got a full head of steam with the football cradled in his arm. McClain proved to be very difficult to bring down, and two games into the regular season the experiment is considered to be an unqualified success.

McClain leads the Ravens (2-0) with 152 yards rushing and last week scored his first two career touchdowns in a 28-10 rout of the Cleveland Browns. What makes those numbers even more impressive is that McClain totaled 170 yards on the ground during his entire career at Alabama, and last year rushed for 18 yards in eight carries with Baltimore.

"It starts with the guy. We can't run the ball for him," Cameron said Wednesday. "He's put in a lot of hard work, done everything we've asked him to do. In training camp he got some opportunities because of Willis' situation, and he made the most of them. He's just scratching the surface."

McClain still thinks of himself as a fullback, although it's difficult for him to mask the pleasure he's derived from carrying the ball, gaining yardage and scoring touchdowns.

"It's fun to carry the ball, but I've always got the mind-set of not getting overwhelmed with the idea," he said. "I was brought in as a fullback. If my role expands to be that runner, then I'll be that runner. But now I just want to be humble and stay fullback first and tailback second."

McClain is part of a trio of backs the Ravens employ to keep everyone fresh and the defense guessing. McGahee is more of a slasher, Ray Rice runs north and south, and McClain is like a pickup truck with legs. It's been an outstanding combination in terms of ball control (the Ravens' average time of possession is 37:02) and yardage (4.2 yards per carry).

"We feel fortunate that we have three guys that can do it, and we're going to use all three guys," coach John Harbaugh said.

"It's just versatile," center Jason Brown said. "No one can take away from what Willis does, but when you get that dynamic duo in the backfield with Le'Ron and Lorenzo Neal, two bruisers in the backfield, you can really wear down the defense. We can either pound on guys, slice them up the middle or wear them down with outside speed."

As if his blocking and running wasn't enough, McClain also has three catches 28 yards, two for first downs.

"I just think he's a good all-around football player. He's a solid runner, a solid blocker, a solid receiver," Cameron said. "There's really no shock to us what's happening on Sundays because we've seen it in practice."

McClain doesn't care if he's carrying the ball or blocking for McGahee. Just as long as he's banging helmets with someone and helping the Ravens win.

"It's fun, being used with Willis as Thunder and Lightning," he said. "I love the physical part of the game. I love blocking, but if I get the ball that's great, too. It really doesn't matter."

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: September 25, 2008

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