It has not been the season many thought it would be for the Baltimore Ravens. I say that sounding like someone who is about to get into a discussion about a team poised for a top-10 draft pick, but though that is not the case with the Ravens, this is still not the juggernaut team they were last year or the one we thought they might resemble this season, even with somewhat of an inevitable step back from their 14-2 campaign in 2019.
At 6-4, the Ravens find themselves currently on the outside looking in with regards to the playoffs. I still think they ultimately make it, but it’s likely going to be a close call. A big reason why it’s so close (in a bad way) is because of their offense. The offensive line lost Marshal Yanda this offseason and then lost Ronnie Stanley to injury during the year. That is certainly hurting them. Their receiving room is also not really helping quarterback Lamar Jackson. Wide receiver Marquise Brown is having quite the down season, and when it’s not tight end Mark Andrews carrying the load, it’s not much of anything for Baltimore. In their running back room, it has been a heavy rotation of backs with none really able to get their grove from week to week
That’s our topic for today; a war on what has been a deep rushing attack for the Ravens and who should be leading a more condensed group.
So far this season, Jackson leads the team in rushing attempts with 90. Gus Edwards is second with 82, the rookie J.K. Dobbins comes in third with 57, and veteran Mark Ingram is fourth with 55—but Ingram has missed two games, so his carries per game are higher than that of Dobbins, who has played all nine of Baltimore’s games. Of them, only two are averaging more than 4.5 yards per carry, and in fact, those two are averaging more than 5.0. “Those two” would be Jackson and Dobbins, and if you ask me, that’s who the Ravens need to feature as their rushing attack moving forward.
Right now, less would be more for the Ravens. Ingram isn’t running like he used to, but he’s still useful. It’s not like he’s glaringly bad, but that’s actually why it’s been so hard for the Ravens to do the right thing and trim the carry rotation. Edwards is also solid, but he’s “solid” at best. Dobbins has been the best back on the team. He’s given the Ravens the highest return on investment with his carries out of the backfield. Plus, Dobbins currently brings more in the passing game than both Edwards and Ingram, as he has almost tripled their targets and almost doubled their receiving yards.
On Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, albeit in a loss, Dobbins led the Ravens’ running back room in carries with 15. He and Jackson accounted for 121 of the Ravens’ rushing yards against the Titans. Compare that to Edwards’ three carries for six yards and Ingram’s two carries for two yards and you have the largest carry discrepancy yet this season. If you ask me, it should stay that way.
There have been multiple times this season where Dobbins has broken off a nice run or just a big play in general only to find himself watching on the sideline the next few plays for the sake of the rotation ratio. This shouldn’t be so. There is something to be said about having a variety of backs to go to in today’s age of football, but when you have a guy who can continue to give you the most out of anyone on your team in both the run and the pass, the proper reaction to that isn’t to pat yourself and the back and praise the rotation, but rather see what happens when you continue to give him even more.
Dobbins has proven that he deserves more.
The Ravens’ offense isn’t quite the unstoppable ground and pound force it was last season. But running the ball is their identity, and they would be wise to invest more of their identity in their young running back. Dobbins is the best they have back there, and he should have a healthy carry lead on each of the other three backs moving forward.
It was rare the Ravens were able to have as much success as they did last year with a three-man rotation. Now they’ve expanded it to four to get Dobbins involved. The thought to get him involved was good. But now it’s time to evolve in a smaller rotation with Dobbins as the top dog.