Disaster struck for the Baltimore Ravens during Saturday’s Week 3 preseason contest with the Washington Football Team when sophomore running back J.K. Dobbins went down with a knee injury. Multiple reports have since confirmed Dobbins suffered a season-ending torn ACL.
It’s a devastating blow for a team that features a run-heavy attack on offense. Dobbins was terrific as a rookie after being selected with the No. 55 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Dobbins turned 134 carries into 805 yards and nine touchdowns a year ago. Dobbins’ big-play ability was especially magnified by his average of six yards per carry on the ground.
As Baltimore now prepares for a 2021 season that won’t feature their sophomore ball-carrier, they’ll look to Gus Edwards to carry the load. Edwards had a terrific season in his own right last year. He totaled 723 yards on just 144 carries, and scored six touchdowns.
Edwards has proved more than capable of handling the bulk of the work in the backfield, but things get dicey behind him on the depth chart. Looking at the totals provided by both Dobbins and Edwards in 2020, it’s clear that Baltimore prefers to lean on a two-back system. In Dobbins’ absence, the RB2 is currently Ty’Son Williams, a second-year player out of BYU that has never touched the ball in a regular-season game. Asking Williams to play a significant role in an offense that needs to be successful on the ground would be a risky proposition.
With that said, let’s examine three running backs the Ravens should look to target this week, via trade or free agency.
FRANK GORE, RB, FREE AGENT
Gore still looked like he had something left in the tank last year despite playing on a lowly New York Jets team. He finished the campaign with 187 carries, ironically seeing more touches as a runner than Dobbins or Edwards did in 2020. Baltimore could use a little experience and familiarity to help replace Dobbins, and Gore obviously provides that in spades.
Few coaches around the league know what Gore’s capable of better than Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who spent multiple seasons with Gore in San Francisco in the same role he now holds in Baltimore. Typically speaking, it’s tough to bring in a player this time of year that could get up to speed as quickly as Gore could. He’s played in Roman’s offense for multiple seasons. The Ravens should be getting Gore on the phone as we speak.
PHILLIP LINDSAY, RB, HOUSTON TEXANS
From a pure upside perspective, Lindsay could represent the best-case scenario here. The Texans have some decisions to make at the running back position in the coming days. Lindsay is joined on the roster by former Ravens running back Mark Ingram, David Johnson, and veteran Rex Burkhead. Keeping all four of these proven ball-carriers seems unnecessary, and the Texans have already proven that they’re open for business this week. They traded defensive lineman Shaq Lawson to the Jets over the weekend and reports indicate they’re open to trading other veterans on their roster as well.
Lindsay would immediately provide a jolt of energy into Baltimore’s running back room. The former undrafted free agent has accounted for more than 3,000 total yards as a runner and pass-catcher over the past three seasons. If Lindsay could be had for a late day-three pick, perhaps even a conditional one, we’re struggling to see why Baltimore wouldn’t make this move.
DEVONTA FREEMAN, RB, SAINTS
Saints running back Tony Jones Jr. has been one of the surprising stories of the summer. His excellent showing has made a veteran like Freeman expendable, and the former Falcons back could be on the move in the coming days. Saints head coach Sean Payton has recently admitted that Jones is the favorite to earn the team’s RB2 spot behind Alvin Kamara. Freeman would unlikely be interested in sticking around to play an RB3 role, and that’s if he could beat out fellow veteran Latavius Murray for that spot. It’s worth noting that Murray could also be looking for a new home.
Either way, Freeman will have little interest in being buried on the depth chart in New Orleans, and the Saints could outright release him on Monday or Tuesday. We wouldn’t be surprised if Freeman found his way to Baltimore, where a wide-open opportunity for carries is now begging to be seized.