Posted in Complicated made simple: X's and O's and scouting for all fans, Pregame Content

Ravens vs. Raiders: 3 keys for the offense post Gus Edwards injury

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens have been absolutely rocked by the bad news machine that is the injury bug. Gus Edwards isn’t available for the purple and black this year. What does that mean for the offense? It means they have to move on in a hurry. The Ravens take on the Las Vegas Raiders in three days (Not counting today). What are the keys for a Gus Edwards-less offense against the Raiders? Let’s dig into that.

1. See what you can get out of Ty’Son Williams

Whether you like it or not, Ty’Son Williams has basically become the top back in Baltimore. He’s an undrafted free agent and this is going to be his first regular-season action. The Ravens got a strong performance from him in the preseason, though the regular season is a whole different animal. Can Williams really be RB1? The Ravens need to find the answer to that in week 1.

The Ravens have always prioritized experience and Williams is basically a rookie. The thing is he’s the readiest to rock and roll for this offense. Le’Veon Bell just got signed to the practice squad. Latavius Murray and Devonta Freeman got into town after he did. Willams is the back who’s been here and is the most familiar with the offense despite his lack of experience in games that count.

There’s nothing the Ravens could get in the Raiders game that would make Baltimore more confident than a 100-yard performance from Williams. That doesn’t have to be the bar, and it’s important to note the other backs the Ravens have active will factor into it. Still, the more the Ravens get out of Williams the better off the offense is. If Williams can be a solid starter, the situation isn’t dire for the run game.

2. The Ravens have to stick to what they know:

The Ravens’ experience at training camp can only be described as chaotic. With players dropping like Watermelons in a game of Fruit Ninja, the Ravens have to stick to what they know. KISS is a great acronym, Keep It Simple Stupid. The Ravens don’t need to show off an evolution of the passing game. They don’t need to get new players involved. Let Lamar Jackson cook in his comfort zone and get Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown heavily involved.

People forget how much of the heavy lifting Jackson has always done for this offense. In 2019, the receiving group was filled with players like Willie Snead, Marquise Brown, Seth Roberts, and Chris Moore. Jackson led the NFL in touchdown passes. In 2020, the offensive line was a trainwreck. Jackson getting the Ravens to 11 wins with help needed upfront and a clearly un-elite group of wideouts has to show you something. The Ravens need to run this offense as if Edwards didn’t go down. They have to stay the course and not try to act like something they’re not. Jackson will always amaze, it’s what he does.

The Ravens needed to pass the football more one way or the other. That was probably already in the works for this game. It may sound like a dumb thing to say, but the game plan didn’t change that much after Edwards went down. The cast and crew can change, but the next iteration of Jackson x Roman is upon us. The Ravens can focus on growing in the passing game this season. They can expand the main cast of targets this season. For week one, let Jackson do his thing. Expect tons of Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown.

3. Keep the Raiders honest but simplify things in the backfield:

Jackson doesn’t have his established running backs in this game. The Ravens love to run zone-reads. They love to do the whole run-pass-option thing. The Ravens need to stay true to themselves, but understand that there is no chemistry between Jackson and the running backs at this point. Even in the preseason, Jackson really only got to work with J.K. Dobbins. Miscommunication in the backfield, especially on zone reads can cause turnovers that should never happen.

If I’m Greg Roman, I’m not expecting the running backs to get this offense perfectly. That standard can’t even go to Williams because he has a lot on his plate. Minimize the risk in week one with the mesh point in the backfield. The who has the ball game creates hesitation in the defense, but it has to be done right. A dumb turnover isn’t what anybody ordered. This is surely something to keep in mind.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Moving forward after Marcus Peters injury

These are the key things that the Ravens have to think about heading into this game. This really is a game to keep it simple. If Baltimore gives an authentic Ravens performance, they can show that they have more going for them than these injuries allow you to realize. Go get it, Action Jackson!



Posted in NFL News

Baltimore Ravens: Moving forward after Marcus Peters injury

By Michael Natelli

Apart from the Baltimore Ravens’ rookie class, there were two players I was particularly excited to watch this year: JK Dobbins and Marcus Peters. As both entered their second full seasons in Baltimore, each seemed poised to have a year that would start to truly etch them into team lore as one of the key cogs of this era of Raven football. Evidently, that’s not going to happen. At least not this year.

As if that weren’t enough, Gus Edwards, L.J. Fort, and Justice Hill are all set to miss the season with injuries as well, and several other key contributors enter the season injured or still working their way back from injury. 

It’s enough to make your head spin and your hope wane. But the growing IR list is no excuse for this Ravens team to phone it in and take their eyes off a postseason run. Not only is there still plenty of talent on this loaded roster, but as bumps in the road emerge, Baltimore may have more ways (and ammo) to address injuries and roster needs than ever before.

Eric DeCosta has been just about as effective in the trade and free agency markets as any general manager in the NFL and should stand to capitalize from the wide range of options he has available.

The Free Agent Market

The Baltimore Ravens are a team that went 14-2 in 2019 in part thanks to their ability to get production out of off-the-street free agents like LJ Fort, Josh Bynes, Domata Peko, Justin Ellis, and a rejuvenated Pernell McPhee.

In 2020, it was signings like Trystan Colon-Castillo and Devontae Harris that helped the Ravens stay afloat as they weathered COVID issues and a depleted secondary. Time and time again, the Baltimore front office and coaching staff have made a living turning post-prime veterans and undrafted free agents into solid contributors, and this year’s free-agent market has them well-positioned to do it once again in addressing current and potential roster needs.

At corner, Richard Sherman, Quinton Dunbar, and former Raven Pierre Desir headline a shallow group of options. Sherman obviously offers the most star power and upside, though pending legal troubles make his status for the season somewhat unclear (to say nothing of his less-than-ideal fit in Wink Martindale’s defense). 

Desir is interesting because he comes with some level of familiarity with the defense having spent time with Baltimore late last year. Metrics didn’t like his play in limited action with the Ravens, but he was highly graded as recently as 2019 and could return to form given a longer stretch to get comfortable with regular reps. 

Dunbar has likely been asked too much of in recent stops and wasn’t up to the task. But at 6’2, the 29-year-old offers the kind of length the Ravens like in corners and could thrive (or at least reasonably contribute) in a more complementary role.

Early to start dealing with injuries: 

Perhaps the most unfortunate part about the injuries Baltimore has endured so far is the unknown of what’s still to come. Injuries come up throughout the course of a football season, so there will inevitably be a few roster holes that need to be plugged between now and January. Will the free-agent market be somewhere that gives the pieces the Ravens need to go win a Super Bowl without key players? Probably not. But does it offer savvy veterans that can help the team stay afloat and at least scrap their way to the postseason in a year with a seventh playoff spot? Absolutely.

Mitchell Schwartz and David DeCastro are out there as options along the offensive line. Geno Atkins and Kawann Short are available in the trenches, and Olivier Vernon is out there to rush the passer. John Brown is available to make his second tour through Baltimore if the receivers can’t get healthy, and Trey Burton is there if tight end depth becomes a problem. Todd Gurley, Adrian Peterson, and Frank Gore are all ready to go if the running back room hasn’t exorcised whatever continues to haunt it yet. 

Make your jokes about how those names all sound good as options in Madden 17, but while most are not what they used to be, enough talent is out there in a pinch that injuries at just about any position shouldn’t be the reason the Ravens aren’t a playoff team this year. 

The Trade Market:

If DeCosta (understandably) finds the free-agent market to have uninspiring options, he also has more than enough draft capital to fill a need or two via trade without putting the Ravens in a disadvantageous position come April.

Before even factoring in any compensation picks for departing free agents this coming offseason, the Ravens are slated to have 14 picks in their 2022 war chest. While such a loaded draft arsenal will come in handy next offseason with Mark Andrews and likely Lamar Jackson signed to new expensive contracts, it also gives the team more than enough ammo to comfortably part with a pick or two for midseason upgrades.

Whether that means swinging a trade for a corner Jacksonville’s C.J. Henderson or Denver’s Bryce Callahan, or star chasing at other spots around the roster, there’s no reason that the Week 1 roster has to be as good as it’s going to get in Baltimore this year. It may take until close to the Trade Deadline, but one would have to think DeCosta is already exploring options to make sure John Harbaugh and company can still be successful this year.

No Excuses

The Ravens are not a team that looks to make excuses. They say the right things because they believe the right things. “Next man up” is not just good coach speak in Baltimore, it’s a culture, and fans should expect nothing short of that attitude and that approach regardless of what the IR list looks like.

NEXT POST: More Ravens injuries are sobering: Next man up starts early

Even as more challenges emerge, the Ravens should be more than equipped enough to weather the storms that come their way and charge forward towards another postseason run.


Posted in NFL News

More Ravens injuries are sobering: Next man up starts early

By Chris Schisler

The bad news cloud that loomed over the Baltimore Ravens preseason isn’t done doing its thing. According to reports both Gus Edwards and Marcus Peters were injured in practice. We have to wait to see how bad it is for both players. What we do know is that it doesn’t look good. The whole “Next Man Up” thing is soberingly starting now.

The Ravens are also starting the season with Rashod Bateman on injured reserve. They’re not only waiting for the return of their first-round pick at wide receiver, but also Nick Boyle and Jimmy Smith. The bad news cloud puts a ton of pressure on Lamar Jackson.

Without Dobbins and Edwards, the Ravens are completely improvising at the running back position. When Dobbins went down it elevated the importance of Edwards and created a plan B. After Justice Hill went down and three other running backs were signed, John Harbaugh and company are completely winging it at the running back position.

Running back improv for the Baltimore Ravens

The good news is that running back is the most replaceable position group and Greg Roman’s offense doesn’t require the best back in the business. The bad news is that a team that already had pressure to fix the passing attack, is going to have to get even more out of the passing game than they thought. Jackson has to carry this team, especially at the beginning of the season. There’s no getting around that.

The Ravens came into the preseason with the best one-two punch at the running back position. Now Ty’Son Williams is your starting running back. A 2020 undrafted free agent, who made the team after bouncing onto the scene in preseason play. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Devonta Freeman signed with the Ravens. Who had Williams, Bell, and Freeman as the running back trio in Baltimore this season?

Williams was supposed to compliment Edwards. Now he’s replacing him. Le’Veon Bell has to exceed expectations. What was a low-risk signing is now one with real stakes. This has to work out. With Freeman, the Ravens need to see how much is left in the tank. Bell might just have some of his prime to get back to, while Freeman is well past his.

Losing Marcus Peters is harder to deal with:

The Ravens may have enough to get by at the running back position. This isn’t a game, set, match situation for the offense. There’s actually plenty of room for optimism with an MVP quarterback. This is tough and yet survivable. The big problem is replacing Marcus Peters. That’s because nobody really “replaces” Peters.

A combination of Jimmy Smith (When healthy) and Anthony Averett will fill in for Peters on the outside opposite Marlon Humphrey. Chris Westry could also play boundary corner some as well. The Ravens just lost the best combo at cornerback in football. They have some options. None of them replace the most instinctive cornerback in the game. Peters was next level in anticipation and the Ravens surely lost some potential interceptions.

Now the injury histories of Smith and also of Tavon Young can start to make you nervous. The Ravens have the depth to deal with this kind of news better than most teams do. This is early to call on their depth. That’s an issue.

The safety play also has to be better now. Peters and Humphrey in tandem took a lot of the plate of the backend defenders. More could leak through now, and the safeties have to be ready for it. The Ravens lost an elite cornerback. They can put another player in his place, but losing Peters is bad. It changes the defensive game plan for Martindale.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens Three Big Questions About The Special Teams

If you’re bummed out just know that the whole Ravens Flock is. If you think the season is over, however, get a grip. There’s still plenty of positives. The Ravens have a game in just four days. Getting an impressive win over the Las Vegas Raiders can settle down the internal screaming and panic the Ravens Flock is going through. Adversity found the Ravens early. Now they have to deal with it and win.


Posted in NFL News

Le’Veon Bell signs with Ravens practice squad: Initial thoughts

By Chris Schisler

In news that I didn’t see coming, the Baltimore Ravens signed Le’Veon Bell to their practice squad. The former Pittsburgh Steelers star is now a contingency plan for a Ravens’ running back position hurt by injuries.

In a previous post I offered skepticism about the Ravens signing Bell. Working him out seemed like the very least they could do – it was due diligence.

Bell was linked to the Ravens in 2019 when he became a free agent. It turned out the Ravens weren’t all that interested. Before the Bell sweepstakes ended, Baltimore struck a deal with Mark Ingram.

Bell didn’t last long with the New York Jets. He had widely reported problems with Andy Reid in Kansas City. Long story short, the Ravens’ interest in Bell always seemed muted because they could have had him a couple of different times.

To the practice squad (For Now)

Now Bell goes to the practice squad. He can be called up from there, and most likely will be soon. Bell is no longer the Pro Bowl running back of his Pittsburgh days. He’s coming in as the third running back; he may not even be the only back the Ravens sign.

The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec noted on Twitter that the Ravens could also sign Trenton Cannon to the active roster. This makes sense, it’s doubtful Bell would provide a replacement for Justice Hill on special teams.

The Ravens worked out several running backs after Hill’s injury. None of them seemed like great options. Bell probably has the most upside left in the tank. At this point, it’s such a low-risk/high-reward situation that the move is understandable.

What Le’Veon Bell has been up to:

Bell has only had 82 rushing attempts last season for two different teams. In 2019 he averaged 3.2 yards per attempt and picked up only 789 yards on the ground. Bell still has great name recognition. In terms of football, the trajectory has been down.

The biggest plus for Baltimore is that they get a running back who can catch out of the backfield. At this point of his career that may be where he offers the most value. In 2019, Bell had 66 receptions with the Jets for 461 yards and a touchdown. That really wasn’t that long ago.

That’s the whole draw with Bell. He’s 29 years old, and theoretically has the same skills and traits that made him elite just three seasons ago. Bell went from one of the best play-makers in Steelers’ history to a guy getting a third chance with the Steelers’ top rival. It was a long road to it, but that’s where he is.

So let’s say hypothetically that Bell gets called up at some point early in the season. Does he fit into the Greg Roman offense? Yes and no.

The things Bell has going for him is good vision and the ability to help in the passing game. The thing Bell has working against him is his running style. Bell is a patient runner who likes to see it unfold before he attacks downfield. The Ravens could take him out of his element. It could be like asking Quentin Tarantino to direct Finding Nemo.

The Bottom Line

The best advice for Ravens fans is to temper expectations for Bell. Even if Bell is a player you always wanted to wear purple and black, you need to understand the context of this signing. He’s a veteran back with baggage, hoping to become part of the rotation with Gus Edwards and Ty’Son Williams. He’s not coming in as the star you remember, and he’s not taking the top spot away from Edwards.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: 3 keys for the defense vs. Las Vegas Raiders

Is he the running back I would have gone with? No. I certainly have reservations. After the New Orleans let go of Latavius Murray, he would have been a more drama-free option. The risk is low and the Ravens couldn’t wait to make a move. The signing was as inevitable as my mixed feelings for the signing were.




Posted in NFL News

Baltimore Ravens in need of another running back

By Chris Schisler

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Justice Hill has been lost for the season with a torn Achilles. The Ravens are now in need of a running back, and there are under 10 days until they take on the Las Vegas Raiders to start the season.

If you’re thinking about Nate McCrary, the Ravens cut him and now he’s with the Denver Broncos. Baltimore went from having a surplus of talent at the running back position to just having two running backs they can turn to after the injuries of Dobbins and Hill. The good news is that Gus Edwards is one of those picks. The only other running back on the roster is an undrafted free agent from 2020.

We’ve spent all offseason talking about Todd Gurley. He’s obviously still on the table.

Logistically, the Ravens absolutely have to acquire a third running back. According to a tweet from The Athletics Jeff Zrebiec, the Ravens have worked out Le’Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman and, Elijah Holyfield.

Let’s take a look at these options for the Baltimore Ravens:

Bell has seemingly been linked to the Ravens forever. At this point, fans can be highly skeptical that this would be the time to bring in Bell. If the Ravens wanted Bell they could have had him twice. Bell had a disappointing stint with the New York Jets and didn’t work out well with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Is Bell even a scheme fit for the Ravens. Bell is known for a patient running style where he’ll dance around a bit and feel out his way through the offensive line. If there’s one thing, Gus Edwards, Ty’Son Williams and, Justice Hill all had in common it’s that they aggressively hit the point of attack. At this point, the Ravens could pay Bell like a number three running back, yet he’d have to be deemed a scheme fit. The Ravens would also need to decide if he’s worth the headache they’ve never seemed interested in having.

If this was 2016 or 2017, Freeman would look like a very appealing option. Freeman was with the Giants last year and only played in five games. He averaged 3.2 yards per rushing attempt. Back in the day, he was a reliable running back good for at least four yards per carry and a good showing as a pass-catcher. There’s just no reason to think the previous version of Freeman’s game lives in him.

With Holyfield, the Ravens would have to know something that I don’t. He’s only played in one game in the NFL, on top of that he has no stats to speak of. Could he work out? Sure. I’m not familiar enough with him to have much of an opinion one way or the other.

Frank Gore is still playing…

Frank Gore is another option. He’s 38 years old, and he should probably retire, yet he’s an option. Gore isn’t as explosive as he used to be. What you get is a versatile back who can block and catch passes. What you get is a dependable player who will at least give you a solid performance. Gore had 653 yards last year with the Jets and just under 600 yards with the Bills in 2019.

One thing to note about Gore is that he’s tough as nails and he’s a great source of veteran leadership. Gore had 12 straight seasons with over 200 rushing attempts in the NFL. He’s able to take more of a beating than most people on the planet. As a serviceable third running back, he wouldn’t have to do too much but would prevent Edwards from having to take on an unviable and unfair workload.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens vs. Las Vegas Raiders: 5 predictions and a score

The options at this point aren’t great for the Baltimore Ravens as they try to find a third running back for their roster. Running back has become the thinnest spot on the roster, and that’s a big deal for what is still expected to be the most run-oriented team in the NFL.

Posted in Pregame Content

Baltimore Ravens vs. Las Vegas Raiders: 5 predictions and a score

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens take on the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday Night Football to start the season. Here are five predictions for the purple and black heading into the big opening game.

1. Gus Edwards shows off

The Baltimore Ravens lost J.K. Dobbins and it’s being pitched as a massive blow against the Ravens’ chances. Meanwhile, the Ravens still have Gus Edwards, who has had three strong seasons in a row. Are the Raiders glad they don’t have to chase down Dobbins? Sure. Do they really want more Gus Edwards? Their linebackers certainly don’t. Edwards is one of the most physical running backs in the NFL and he has a chance to show off. A strong showing by Edwards will calm the nerves down a bit for this offense.

Last season the Raiders couldn’t stop the run. This game is a great chance for the Ravens to get the run game going early. The big signings of the Raiders’ offseason for the defense were Yannick Ngakoue and Solomon Thomas. Ravens fans know first-hand that adding Ngakoue isn’t going to boost the run defense of the Raiders. Even with a defensive-focused 2021 NFL Draft class, nothing screams “The Raiders made the changes to improve against the run!”

Edwards has had six career 100-yard rushing performances. In 2020, he’s the clearly defined number one back. He’s going to add more 100-yard performances this year. The Ravens are going to get the first one of the year in their first game that counts.

2. A strong start to the season by Marquise Brown

With Rashod Bateman being on injured reserve to start the season, and Lamar Jackson getting limited game reps in the preseason, the passing attack is going to feature the familiar stars. While the Ravens must be able to involve much more of the supporting cast through the season, look for a lot of Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews early on. These are Jackson’s guys. This is the trio that doesn’t need time to gel together.

Going into the first game, Marquise Brown is almost a forgotten Raven. He’s missed a lot of practice and he didn’t play in the three preseason games. The Raiders are certainly aware of Brown, though they may have spent less time preparing for him than they would have if this was a 2020 regular-season game. The big reason for Brown’s chance to shine in this game is that the Ravens are going to start to push the ball down the field more. Long story short, the Ravens are going to try to make Brown’s skills as a constant deep threat matter much more this season.

3. Marcus Peters has a pick-six

Marcus Peters has a reputation for the pick-six. Peters has six touchdowns in his career to go with his 31 interceptions. Last season, Peters sealed the game against the Tennessee Titans with an interception. While he didn’t make a house call, the Ravens Flock got payback on the Titans with a logo stomp. Peters had four interceptions and no touchdowns last year. He’s due for a defensive touchdown.

I actually think Derek Carr will have a deceptively good stat line in this game, it just won’t amount to much. The Raiders have some talent and they’re going to make plays. That said, expect Don Martindale’s defense to limit the big plays for the Raiders. Long drives are going to have to sustain the Raiders’ offense. Carr will get frustrated and Peters will put six on the scoreboard for the Ravens.

4. Ravens pass rush looks much improved

The Baltimore Ravens are going to have a much-improved pass rush in the 2020 season. Adding Justin Houston to the mix was a big deal. He’s going to have a sack and a good bit of pressure in his first game as a Raven. Look for Odafe Oweh and Tyus Bowser to have moments living in the backfield as well. The offensive line is a major question mark for the Raiders.

Going into the NFL Draft I loved the upside of Alex Leatherwood. That being said, the Raiders have him listed as the starting right tackle in his first NFL game. You already know who Don Martindale is attacking. Denzelle Good, who is listed as the starting right guard has a Pro Football Focus grade of 56.7. The left side of the Raiders offensive line looks strong with Kolton Miller and Richie Incognito. Still, the Ravens have the talent advantage in the trenches. With Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams, Derek Wolfe, and a good grouping of linebackers, Baltimore should win the line of scrimmage.

5. Lamar Jackson has 400 total yards and four touchdowns

The Baltimore Ravens are going to see Jackson have an MVP kind of performance in this game. He’s going to be deadly efficient. As a passer let’s give Jackson 275 yards and three touchdowns, with a couple of deep shots getting him there. As a runner let’s give Jackson 125. He’ll have one run where he gets away for a long gain which tacks onto the 50-80 yards you expect from him. It’s Monday Night Football and people think they have Jackson figured out. That sounds like a recipe for Jackson to have a big night.

6. Baltimore Ravens win 35-12

Betting on exact scores is a very hard thing to do. I think this is a big win for the Ravens. I won’t apologize if this game is close. The Ravens have a better roster, a better coach, and a bigger difference-maker under center. 35-12 sounds fun. Let’s give the Raiders four field goals because this Baltimore Ravens defense isn’t breaking.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Projecting Gus Edwards numbers for 2021

We’re already two articles into the Ravens pregame content for the first Monday Night game of the year. Wait, did you think we were going to wait until everybody else started jumping on this? We’re too ready here at PBN!

Posted in Ravens Thoughts

Baltimore Ravens: Projecting Gus Edwards numbers for 2021

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens will have to lean a little bit more heavily on Gus Edwards now that J.K. Dobbins is out for the season with a torn ACL. Fans want to know- partly for Fantasy Football – partly for the love of Ravens football, what will change this season for Gus Edwards?

The honest answer is not a lot. Edwards has had three straight seasons over 700 yards rushing. In 2018, he had 144 carries. He’s had over 130 carries three seasons in a row. While J.K. Dobbins was technically slated to be the number one running back, Edwards offered little to no drop-off as running back two. Essentially the Ravens planned on having two lead backs. One is out for the year, the other will continue to be a workhorse for the offense.

Projection is tricky but doable for the Baltimore Ravens’ top back:

Projecting based on last season is a little tricky. There’s an extra game this year, and Dobbins is out of the equation. For the moment, the fill-in running back carries will be handled by Justice Hill and Ty’Son Williams. Last season it was a fairly even split. Edwards ran the rock 144 times and Dobbins got it 133 times.

The reason it won’t be a drastic change for Edwards is that the Ravens aren’t going to abuse him. The Ravens haven’t really had a running back who got around 25 rushing attempts a game since the days of Brian Billick and Jamal Lewis. John Harbaugh-coached teams have seldom had one back do all the heavy lifting. In 2019, Mark Ingram had 10-13 carries per game, proof that the number one guy doesn’t get a cruel workload.

The Ravens are going to want to maximize what they get out of Edwards. They don’t want to work him so hard that they have him running out of gas by the playoffs. Let’s say he averages 12 rushing attempts per game. This seems like a fair number. 12 x 17 = 204 rushing attempts. That is 60 more carries than last season. His workload is going to go up.

So we have Edwards down for 204 rushing attempts. On paper, it does sound like a lot. In a perfect world, the Ravens may be able to lean on their other running backs enough to make it more of a fair ask of Edwards. Nonetheless, 204 attempts is the projection we’re at. Edwards should be good for around five yards per carry. That average would track with the rest of his career. That would give Edwards 1,020 yards on the year.

Additional thing to think about here:

Keeping in mind that there is an extra game and that Ty’Son Williams and Justice Hill probably don’t add up to the impact of one J.K. Dobbins, overdoing it a little bit with Edwards is going to be hard to avoid. The Ravens may not want to add a veteran running back to the mix either because the roster math is still a limitation. Can moves happen? Yes. For the time being this is the unit the Ravens have for the backfield.

I wouldn’t be shocked to see Pat Ricard get a little more in the way of touches this season. His rushing totals will still look minimal, yet it’s another way to run the ball without asking the “Gus Bus” to do it all.

One area of concern is how the Ravens have their running backs produce as running backs out of the backfield. Last year, Edwards only caught nine passes. Edwards only has 18 career receptions. Justice Hill all of the sudden is probably Baltimore’s best receiving option out of the backfield. Dobbins was a more dynamic playmaker as a receiving option than Edwards. This could limit the offense a bit more than Greg Roman would like.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Early reasons for confidence vs. Las Vegas Raiders

It should be a great year for Edwards. If he stays healthy he’s going to be one of the best running backs in the NFL. You could argue he already is one of the top backs in football. He certainly is one of the most consistent.

Posted in Uncategorized

J.K. Dobbins out for the year: How the Ravens move forward

By Chris Schisler

The Baltimore Ravens had one of the worst possible things happen in their preseason game against the Washington Football Team. They lost their star running back J.K. Dobbins for the season. According to reports, Dobbins tore his ACL and won’t play in the 2021 season. How do the Baltimore Ravens move forward? Let’s dive into that.

This obviously makes Gus Edwards the top running back in Baltimore. An outside signing isn’t out of the question. Todd Gurley talked to the Ravens this offseason. Frank Gore hasn’t retired yet and is available. With the regular season coming in just a couple of weeks, the timing for a move like this isn’t ideal.

The most likely scenario is that the Baltimore Ravens roll with the running backs on their roster. This probably means that on the 53 man roster, Gus Edwards, Ty’Son Williams, and Justice Hill will make up the running back spot. Dobbins is hard to replace, though there isn’t suddenly room for a fourth running back on the 53 man roster.

The Ravens didn’t just have two unproven running backs play amazing football to sign an older and staler player on a knee-jerk reaction. The roster is loaded but the Ravens should absolutely get Nate McCrary on the practice squad. He could be called up if needed. The running back position as a whole got a little less proven, but it’s not a completely disassembled unit.

Edwards is in a very interesting position. On one hand, he’s one of the most consistent running backs the Baltimore offense has ever had. Edwards has had three straight seasons over 700 yards. On the other hand, Edwards has never been the Jamal Lewis or the Ray Rice type of player. He’s been the compliment of the Ravens run game more than he’s been the bell cow. Edwards is looking at a bigger role.

Dobbins averaged six yards per carry in his rookie season. If Dobbins stayed healthy he more than likely would have had over 1,000 yards on the ground. Last year, Dobbins, Edwards and, Jackson totaled 2,533 total yards. To stay on track Edwards needs to have his best year ever and at least flirt with the 1,000-yard mark.

As good as Ty’Son Williams has looked in the preseason, the Ravens running back group took a huge hit. The Ravens lost one of the best one-two punches in the NFL. Whether the number two back becomes Williams or Justice Hill, it won’t pack the same dynamic. Edwards’s role was often to be the closer at the end of the game, who would run without mercy against a tired defense. Now he’s the starting pitcher.

One of the major concerns of training camp was how severely the injuries prevented the offense from gelling. Should Lamar Jackson and the now-injured Dobbins have been playing in the final preseason game? No. The motivation to play them though was to get as much of the starting offense rolling together as the Ravens could.

The Dobbins injury compounds the chemistry problem. The purple and black now have to go into the preseason without working out the kinks in a game with their real starting offense. They have to figure out the new rotation at running back and establish a new pecking order in the backfield.

The Ravens should still be one of the best running football teams. They even have a chance to remain the top running football operation in the NFL. Lamar Jackson will always boost the ground game. He does this not only by producing on the ground but by making the defense mindful that he can produce on the ground.

The Ravens aren’t going to go from being one of the best running teams in the history of football (maybe even the best) to struggling on the ground. The ground game should still be the core competency of this offense. The question isn’t even how many yards this will shave off their total production running the football, but how will it impact the crazy efficiency of the unit on the ground.

Jackson averaged 6.3 yards per rushing attempt last season. Dobbins averaged an even six. Edwards picked up five yards a pop. At the end of the year, if the Ravens don’t have their three top runners picking up five or more yards per attempt, it takes a bit of the bite out of the strength of the offense.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens 3 Big Questions About the Secondary

The Dobbins injury doesn’t sink the Ravens. It is however completely deflating to lose a potential superstar breakout year from a young running back. The Ravens lost star power and it’s awfully early to be turning to the next-man-up mentality. One way or another the Ravens needed to see gains from their passing attack in 2021. This surely reinforces that. If the Ravens don’t add an outside running back it shows you that they are still confident in their ability to be a dominant team running the football.


Posted in Uncategorized

Baltimore Ravens: Ty’Son Williams deserves a roster spot

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.

NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens: Projecting 53 man roster after 2 preseason games

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.


Posted in Ravens Thoughts

J.K. Dobbins: Predicting his production for the 2021 Ravens

By Chris Schisler

J.K. Dobbins is going to have a big season for the Baltimore Ravens. Dobbins was arguably the most exciting rookie last season. He looks much more poised for a second-year jump than a sophomore slump. Let’s take a look at the numbers from last season to help us with our projection.

Dobbins had 134 rushing attempts and averaged an even six yards per carry last season. That was good for 805 yards and nine touchdowns.

The most exciting thing about Dobbins is the potential for the big play. He had a 44-yard scamper against the Houston Texans. He liked facing the Cincinnati Bengals as he had a 34 yard run in one game against them and a 72-yard touchdown in the second battle. Dobbins showed flashes but he really only had two monster games.

Against the Steelers (In a game the Ravens found a way to lose somehow) Dobbins had 113 yards on just 15 rushing attempts. In the regular-season finale, the Ohio State product had 160 yards on just 13 attempts.

How much will Dobbins the football?

As a rookie, Dobbins averaged eight carries a game. This number is a bit misleading because, at the beginning of the season, Dobbins wasn’t getting the top billing at the running back position. Dobbins had 94 rushing attempts in the last nine games of the season. This equated to a little over 10 rushing attempts per game.

Gus Edwards had only 10 more rushing attempts during the 2020 season than Dobbins. It kind of evened out over the course of the season. It was basically as if the Ravens had two running backs carrying the mantle of the number one spot together.

When projecting Dobbins’s numbers, you have to think about the “Gus Bus”. Edwards is one of the Ravens’ best players and he’s going to split the workload with Dobbins. Dobbins should get a bit more touches, but it will be fairly balanced.

Going back to the 2019 season, when Mark Ingram was the top running back in Baltimore, attempts were distributed in a fairly similar method. Ingram never had more than 19 rushing attempts and could expect to run the rock about 15 times.

The Baltimore Ravens may pass the ball more in the 2021 season, though the rushing numbers won’t be diminished in a very noticeable way. Expect Dobbins to get 12-15 rushing attempts per game. Edwards will get eight to 11 attempts on average. Dobbins will get more touches because he is the home run threat in the Ravens backfield not named Lamar Jackson.

Let’s say the second-year phenom averages 13 attempts per game over the course of a 17 game season. That would be 221 rushing attempts. For the sake of being realistic, let’s assume the added workload takes his average down from six yards to 5.5. That would give him around 1,215 yards. You may remember that Ingram had 1,018 rushing yards in 2019. In a 17 game season as the top back, Dobbins should be able to get to 1,200 yards.

Number 27 is expected to be more of a receiver out of the backfield in the 2021 season. We’ve seen little hype videos of him working on his receiving abilities, and we know that’s the one area his game can improve. Dobbins had 18 receptions for 120 yards in his rookie campaign.

That number could easily go up in 2021. I could see 30 receptions but let’s go with 25 to temper our expectations. That’s seven more receptions. He averaged 6.7 yards per reception last season. So at a minimum, we’re looking at 167 yards as a pass-catcher from the second year running back.

Let’s say he breaks two or three of those catches for a huge gain. Give Dobbins 250 yards as a receiver. Fantasy Football fans have to like what we’re talking about and we haven’t even started talking about touchdowns.

Dobbins has a nose for the goal line. He had nine touchdowns last season and when he got the ball inside the five, you almost knew he was going to breakthrough. Dobbins has that low center of gravity and a feel for the game that makes him so dangerous on the goal line. Let’s give Dobbins 14 total touchdowns. He’s going to break away for a few big ones and he’ll do some serious eating in the red zone.

NEXT POST: Lamar Jackson: Projecting his stats for 2021 Ravens

J.K. Dobbins is going to have a big year for the Baltimore Ravens. This is a good guideline of where his gains could come statistically over the course of the new 17 game season.