By Chris Schisler
The Baltimore Ravens have a need at the running back position. Furthermore there’s only so much the team can do for the offensive line at this point in the season. The team did sign Cedric Ogbuehi to the practice squad- it’s possible that he could give a passing grade performance at right tackle. It does however seem that if the Ravens don’t trade for a running back, they’re going to have to lean on their quarterback, Lamar Jackson, for rushing yards.
Marlon Mack is an interesting option. He doesn’t cost much from a salary cap perspective. That alone could get the Ravens to play ball. A cost-effective move that gives the Ravens more at the running back position could be interesting. This is a what could it hurt kind of thing.
The upside is easy to see. In 2019 he rushed for over 1,000 yards. The year before that he was close to the 1,000-yard mark with healthy yards per attempt. He’s a capable receiver out of the backfield and he’s only 25 years old. If Jonathan Taylor never burst onto the scene for the Colts, Mack might have gotten back to being their feature back.
While Mack is only averaging 3.6 yards per carry this season, it’s in a very limited role. If the Ravens traded for him it is likely that he would be the best athlete in the running back room. Remember, Latavius Murray is 31 years old and Devonta Freeman is 29. At the running back position youth matters. Bell is also 29 years old and he had a year without football, and a couple of teams it didn’t work out with – it’s been a long road back to this chance with the Ravens.
The Baltimore Ravens have to do something:
Mack runs very similarly to Justin Forsett. I know that Gary Kubiak is far removed as the offensive coordinator, but let’s not act like Greg Roman couldn’t have gotten something out of Forsett. Mack is a bit bigger than Forsett, though their style of play is nearly identical. Mack would fit in the Ravens’ offense. He’s not going to waste time, he’s going to get downhill, make a cut and go.
It’s not all on the running back position… fine, nobody is saying that it is. The Baltimore Ravens can’t run the football though, and if the move isn’t costly, and I’m Eric DeCosta, I’m going for it. I’m sending a fifth or a sixth-round pick to Indianapolis and I’m seeing what a change at running back can tangibly do for this offense.
With Mack’s current spot with the Colts, we don’t know how much he can provide for the offense. The ceiling is hidden within the context of being a third-down back and the guy who gives Taylor a breather. What we do know is that the Baltimore Ravens running backs aren’t cutting it.
Ty’Son Williams got the first crack at being the guy. He had pass protection issues and fumbled the football. Latavius Murray averages 3.6 yards per rushing attempt and lacks the burst to get around the edge. Bell has positives to speak of, especially in pass protection. Still, Bell isn’t the spark the offense has needed. Baltimore doesn’t have a running back number one.
While the Ravens would be wise to promote Nate McCrary from the practice squad, it may not be enough. Remember, the Ravens chose Ty’Son Williams over McCrary after the preseason. McCrary ended up with the Denver Broncos for a short time before winding his way back on the Baltimore Ravens practice squad. It’s very likely that McCrary wouldn’t be enough to change the fortune in the backfield.
The Bottom Line:
Mack is a player that could get the Ravens through their running back struggles. Next year the Ravens are going to have Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins back. They don’t need Mack to have a complete renaissance of his career. They need him to be better than what they currently have on the roster.
Look at the situation the Ravens are in. Lamar Jackson has 46 percent of the rushing yards. Devonta Freeman has had some big runs, though he only has 20 attempts this season. If the Ravens were going to add a flashy and expensive running back it would be foolish. The offensive line is going to make this a struggle all year and they’d never get the full return on their investment. Mack doesn’t cost that much and may give them an upgrade.
The Baltimore Ravens need a running back to step up so they can keep their identity as a football team. The idea was to get more out of the passing game, not to lean entirely on the quarterback for everything. Would Mack light it up in Baltimore? Who knows. What we do know is that the current running back group isn’t getting the job done. If things are going to be a struggle for the run game you must change the pieces around where you can and see what improvements can be had.