Injuries can quickly derail an NFL team’s Super Bowl hopes. And with the way things have gone recently, it wouldn’t be a surprise if a few Baltimore Ravens fans feel far less optimistic about the team’s chances of capturing the Lombardi Trophy.
While Lamar Jackson should still give defenses fits, how the rest of the offense performs remains a bit of a mystery. After all, Greg Roman’s unit suffered two critical blows over a five-day span that has forced the franchise to resort to desperate measures to overcome a brutal run of bad luck.
The Ravens bolstered their rushing attack in the 2020 NFL Draft by selecting former Ohio Buckeyes star J.K. Dobbins with the 55th overall pick. Although he only started one game as a rookie, the 5-foot-10, 212-pound back still racked up 805 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 134 carries. Plus, the former All-American caught 18 passes for 120 yards during his first year in Baltimore.
Unfortunately for Dobbins, his 2021 season came to an end before it truly began.
With Week 1 right around the corner, he suffered a torn ACL against the Washington Football Team. His injury represented a devastating blow to an offense that clearly planned to get the ball in Dobbins’ hands quite a bit.
But Baltimore’s bad luck didn’t stop there.
In a cruel twist of fate, head coach John Harbaugh lost another talented tailback to a season-ending injury. On Monday, Jamison Hensley of ESPN reported that Justice Hill tore his Achilles tendon during Thursday’s practice. Instead of taking on a more expanded role in his third year with the organization, the 2019 fourth-round pick faces a long rehab process.
At this point, a run-first team like the Ravens can’t afford to enter Week 1 with such a thin backfield.
Think the Ravens feel desperate about their running back situation?
Based on who the team worked out on Monday, it’s obvious Baltimore doesn’t care about recent production. Otherwise, there’s no excuse for giving Le’Veon Bell a chance to earn another NFL contract.
Bell can call himself a two-time All-Pro, but his days as an elite offensive weapon ended years ago. Once viewed as the best all-around back in the league, the former Pittsburgh Steelers star has watched his stock slip dramatically in recent years. After failing to live up to his $52 million contract with the New York Jets, the 29-year-old barely saw the field with the Kansas City Chiefs during the 2020 season.
To make matters worse, Bell surprisingly called out Andy Reid — a coach who most would describe as player-friendly. At this point, it’s hard to see the upside of signing an aging, ineffective player who hasn’t looked the same since he left Pittsburgh.
Ironically, the Ravens worked out another running back who fits that description.
Devonta Freeman also showcased his skills for Baltimore brass, but he comes with major concerns, too. After racking up 29 rushing touchdowns from 2015-17, he’s only totaled three more. Meanwhile, he missed 14 games in 2018 and 11 games in 2020 due to injuries.
Want further proof of how desperate Baltimore has become?
Freeman got a chance to work out despite the fact he averaged a paltry 3.6 yards per carry during his final season with the Atlanta Falcons. Oh, he only gained 3.2 yards per carry in 2020 as a member of the New York Giants.
Luckily for the Ravens, their recent setbacks may not come back to bite them right away.
Baltimore opens the year with a tasty matchup against a Las Vegas Raiders team that could experience some serious struggles on defense. For all of the moves Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock have made in recent years, their squad simply looks overmatched on that side of the ball.
Expect to see Gus Edwards get plenty of carries in Week 1. At 6-foot-1, 238 pounds, he brings excellent size and power for the position. After surpassing 700 rushing yards in each of his first three seasons with the team, don’t be surprised if Edwards smashes the 1,000-yard threshold.
However, even if the fourth-year pro helps the Ravens take down the Raiders, general manager Eric DeCosta clearly needs to build depth at the position.
With a new 17-game schedule and a potential playoff run on the horizon, he better find at least one player who can take some of the load off of Edwards.
At this stage of their careers, though, neither Le’Veon Bell nor Devonta Freeman belong in Baltimore.
Let’s see if Decosta agrees.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.