By Chris Schisler
The Baltimore Ravens have had no position battle more compelling than the battle at running back. While J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards were mostly out of the spotlight, Ty’Son Williams and Nate McCrary have made a strong push for Justice Hill‘s job.
Is it Justice Hill’s job?
Justice Hill was the presumed running back number three. He was a fourth-round draft pick and he’s competing against two undrafted free agents. Hill may have entered training camp as the favorite for the third running back spot, but the competition has heated up.
Hill had 59 rushing attempts in his rookie season averaging just 3.9 yards a pop. In 2020, Hill only had 12 rushing attempts. The Ravens, by the way, are the most committed football team to the ground game. Hill hasn’t made much of an impression in the backfield. Assuming the job was his no matter what is a little foolish.
The job is certainly in fair play. Speaking of play, the Ravens have two running backs who are performing at a high level. Hill has reportedly been dealing with an ankle injury. Preseason games aren’t the full story, in fact, the practices probably tell a larger portion of the story. Preseason games are however the window we have for analyzing the players in a game setting. Being mindful that we can’t put too much stock in the preseason to be fair and realistic, the eye test has spoken. Ty’Son Williams has aced it.
Ty’Son Williams has traits:
Going into the preseason I had 10 preseason predictions. One of these predictions is that Nate McCrary would make a serious push for the third running back spot. I picked the right position battle but backed the wrong back. McCrary has had some impressive moments. Statistically, he’s right there with Williams. The traits Williams has put on display should give him the edge.
The first thing the Ravens need from a running back behind Dobbins and Edwards is the ability to catch the football out of the backfield. This trait is why the Ravens flirted with the idea of bringing in Todd Gurley this offseason. Williams has caught seven passes this preseason for 39 yards. He’s shown himself to be a natural hands catcher, it’s not awkward. He checks the box here, even if it’s not the main aspect of his game.
Williams has great leg strength and the ability to run through a crowded tackle box. His contact balance is almost on a Gus the Bus level of impressiveness. It’s hard to bring Williams down and he always fights for a couple of extra yards. Stylistically, Williams could be another bowling ball the Ravens use to tire out defenses. Edwards packs a little more thickness and weight, but they’re both freight trains.
The Baltimore Ravens play that showed it all:
Williams’s touchdown run against the Panthers showed everything. It’s one play that makes the whole argument. Five Panthers had a chance to take Williams down. Foster Sewell pulled on the play and got just enough of a Panthers linebacker. Williams ran behind the block he got to get to the second level. Vision and awareness made this run possible.
A Panthers’ safety failed to square up on Williams. Williams showed just enough shake to throw. The defender took a bad angle and hit Williams on the side. Williams brushed it off like it was nothing, for a lot of running backs that would have been just a seven-yard gain at that point. Then Williams managed to stave off a couple of shoestring tackle attempts. He started falling almost five yards before the goal line. It took balance, core strength, and determination to get in the end zone.
Williams topped off his second impressive performance with a run that was the best possible pitch for a roster spot. The eye test really works in his favor. He’s got traits, he’s popped onto the scene and if the Ravens are smart he’s not going anywhere. He should be your running back number three.