(Image credit: Kevin Oestreicher/USA Today Sports)
Written by: Connor Pelesh
A common theme throughout Ravens training camp unfortunately has been injuries. What happened in Week 3 of the preseason on the first offensive drive for the Ravens sent the fanbase in a frenzy. JK Dobbins caught a screen pass from Lamar Jackson and when he looked to turn upfield, a Washington player dove for his legs to make the tackle. Dobbins' leg was extended to make a cut and bent backward when he was tackled low. At first glance, the play did not look good for Dobbins, but there was the possibility he suffered a hyperextended knee and would only miss a month or so. The Ravens' worst fears were realized when an MRI confirmed Dobbins had torn his ACL and had other structural damage. This is a tough break for the Ravens who had a young second-year player looking for a breakout season and worked so hard all offseason. The team will feel the effects of Dobbins’ absence this season, but the Ravens have many reasons to believe their season and running game will not falter. I will talk about the other running backs on the roster and how all of their roles will increase. Hopefully, this breakdown gives Ravens fans some security heading into this 2021-2022 season.
Coming into the season, I expected JK Dobbins to receive about 60-70% of the running back carries and Gus Ewards to get around 30-40%. After the injury, however, I would think Gus Edwards will have anywhere from 80-90% of all running back carries. For Gus Edwards, this is a big opportunity to become a household name in the NFL and prove he was worth every penny of the contract extension he signed in the offseason. For fantasy football owners, Edwards is certainly an RB2 caliber player and I wouldn't be surprised if he finished in the top 10 of all running backs. I have the utmost confidence that Edwards can handle the heavy load of the Ravens running attack. During his rookie season, along with Lamar Jackson making his first few starts in the NFL, Edwards played great and had multiple 100+ yard games and touchdowns. Last season, Edwards had his best year with 723 rushing yards, 129 receiving yards, and 6 touchdowns. The Ravens running back was able to put up that impressive stat line splitting carries with Dobbins most of the season and Mark Ingram at the beginning of the year. I would project Edwards to easily get over 1,000 yards (maybe over 1,250) along with 10+ touchdowns assuming he plays every game. The Ravens and their fans should still feel confident in this running game and expect little to no drop-off in the running back position even with the loss of their top back.
This is a great story of a running back who was undrafted and now is the RB2 for the Baltimore Ravens' formidable running attack. Williams proved his worth during training camp with his availability and play-making ability. During the preseason he saw extensive action and was able to make big plays for the Ravens keeping their preseason winning streak alive. If you want to know about his toughness and effort watch his 20-yard touchdown run vs the Panthers in the second week of the preseason. Williams has shown great speed and vision in his preseason action and it will be very interesting to see how he translates in a regular-season game. He will not have as much pressure as Edwards to carry the running attack for the Ravens, however, if Williams can be a one-two-punch this running attack will be as strong as ever. I would project Williams to have around 500 total yards and 4 touchdowns but it could be much more if Williams gets a solid amount of carries.
Ravens running back Justice Hill recently tore his Achilles and will miss the whole season. The team will look to add a free agent running back to complement Edwards and Williams in the coming days.
Running Game Outlook
The Ravens running game has been among the league's best the last two years and broke tons of records. Outperforming the efforts of the past few years will be very hard to do. Lamar Jackson’s running ability will help the rushing numbers a great deal when he scrambles for sometimes over 100+ per game. I expect the game plan to look very similar even with the loss of Dobbins, but Lamar will have to do a little more himself after losing one of his best playmakers. When the wide receivers get healthy later in the season, having a strong running attack will fuel a stronger passing attack like it did in 2019. We will all find out Week 1 vs the Raiders if the Ravens running backs are up to the challenge.