The Baltimore Ravens once had unquestionably the greatest running game in the NFL. And it really wasn’t that long ago, at all. It was basically from the time that Lamar Jackson took over at running back until the start of the 2021 season, just prior to which basically their entire running back room succumbed to season-long injuries.
Their running game hasn’t been the same since then, as you would expect, primarily being propped up by Jackson’s own heroic efforts. Recent signing Kenyan Drake has been the primary ball carrier through two games with all of 17 carries thus far for 39 yards. Mike Davis, another veteran addition this offseason, has 15 yards on seven attempts.
But they could be in for a big boost today, as J.K. Dobbins is expected to make his 2022 debut today, marking his first game since the end of the 2020 season, having torn his ACL in the preseason finale last year. He was able to escape the Reserve/Injured List to start the season, but team doctors didn’t feel he was quite ready to go, until now.
A second-round draft pick in 2020, Dobbins had an impressive rookie season despite lacking a featured role. He managed to rush for 805 yards on all of 134 carries, averaging a solid six yards per carry, while also scoring nine rushing touchdowns. He also added another 120 receiving yards on 18 catches.
He was thought then destined to be the next great running back in Baltimore, and perhaps he still can be, but first he has to get his legs back under him and knock off some rust. Considering they didn’t feel he was quite ready even a week ago, it’s reasonable to believe that he will need some time before he regains his form.
But having Jackson at quarterback as a running threat will benefit him significantly—even if it hasn’t really seemed to work out that way for the other running backs thus far, although they have surprisingly not run the ball as they have historically in recent years.
They take on the New England Patriots today, who just beat the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. Their run defense ranks in the top 10, if not the top 5, in every major statistical category, though bearing in mind that two games is an infinitesimal sample size.
It will be interesting to see how well and how quickly Dobbins re-establishes himself as the lead runner in the Ravens’ backfield. Mind you, they also anticipate soon getting their second runner, Gus Edwards, back before long.
Unlike Dobbins, he did not escape beginning the year on the Reserve/Injured List, but he was not believed to be far away, so they could have their complete backfield together by week five, plus left tackle Ronnie Stanley should be good to go by then as well, and then we’ll really see what this offense looks like.