The Ravens sent fullback Vonta Leach and his $3 million salary packing this summer, though they always kept the door open for Leach to return at a lower salary. After testing the free agent waters, Leach did exactly that, re-signing with the Ravens in late July, a two-year deal reportedly worth about $2 million a year plus incentives.
The Ravens' decision to trade Anquan Boldin to San Francisco for a sixth-round pick in what amounted to a salary dispute is being roundly criticized after Boldin torched Green Bay to the tune of 13 catches for 208 yards and a touchdown in his 49ers debut on Sunday.
But at Denver on Thursday night, Leach showed that the Ravens' decision to re-sign the bruising fullback was a smart one. He was one of the Ravens most valuable players on offense.
Leach scored the Ravens' first touchdown on a 2-yard touchdown pass, and he finished with three catches for 12 yards. No, he'll never be confused with Jerry Rice.
But Leach also served in his prototypical battering ram role as well. He buried Denver safety Duke Ihenachio on Ray Rice's 1-yard touchdown run, and it's at the goal-line and in other short-yardage situations where Leach's impact is felt most. Rookie fullback Kyle Juszczyk has a lot of versatility, but in training camp it appeared his goal-line and short-yardage blocking still needs a lot of work.
Leach also threw a couple of other key blocks on Ravens runs early in the game. Granted, when the game got out of hand, the Ravens abandoned the running game. When that happens, Leach's value drops off the table.
To be successful, the Ravens offense must continue to revolve around Ray Rice and the running game. The Ravens are not well served -- particularly with their issues at receiver and tight end -- throwing 62 times and running 21, as they did at Denver.
And to establish the running game, it's good to have Leach leading the way.