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Mailbag: How Will Running Back Carries Be Divided?

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) runs for yardage during their NFL football game against the Houston Texans Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn.
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) runs for yardage during their NFL football game against the Houston Texans Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn.

Brown:Henry won't have to average 20+ carries a game to be a major weapon for the Ravens. He rushed for 1,167 yards in 2023 while averaging just 16.5 carries a game. That was his lowest per-carry average since 2018, yet he still finished second in the league in rushing.

I think Henry is still capable of carrying a heavy load as the No. 1 back. I expect that he'll run the ball frequently in games when he's cooking, or whenever the Ravens are trying to control time of possession. However, the Ravens don't want to overwork Henry and they want him to be strong for December, January, and hopefully February. With Justice Hill coming off his best season, the Ravens have another quality back they can use in tandem with Henry, and they may add a young back in this year's draft.

We don't know exactly when Keaton Mitchell will return from his knee injury. When he does come back, I think Mitchell will be used much like he was as a rookie. He never carried the ball more than nine times in a game in 2023, yet Mitchell was a momentum-changer with his breakaway speed and ability to make big plays. I think that's an effective role for him again in 2024, especially coming off a major injury.

Brown: I think offensive line is the position group most likely to be targeted in the first round. Pundits say this year's draft is loaded with offensive linemen who can make an immediate impact, and the Ravens have three starters on the offensive line to replace -  John Simpson (Jets), Kevin Zeitler (Lions) and Morgan Moses (Jets).  

Amarius Mims of Georgia, Tyler Guyton of Oklahoma, and Graham Barton of Duke are among the offensive linemen linked to Baltimore in mock drafts. Offensive Line Coach Joe D'Alessandris has an impressive track record developing young players, and Baltimore could draft more than one lineman for him to work with. I'd love to know how the Ravens have this year's offensive linemen stacked on their draft board with so many talented ones to choose from. 

If the Ravens don't take an offensive lineman first, they could pivot toward a wide receiver. Eric DeCosta has frequently targeted that position since becoming general manager and wideouts Keon Coleman (Florida State) and Adonai Mitchell (Texas) might be available at No. 30. Veteran wide receiver Josh Reynolds is reportedly off the market and headed to the Denver Broncos, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, and Reynolds was a player the Ravens reportedly had interest in.

It will be a fluid Day 1 for the Ravens at No. 30, with so many teams taking players off the board before Baltimore's pick. However, offensive line is a position of need and a position of strength in this year's class. To me, that makes it the most likely position Baltimore will address first.

Brown:I like your willingness to think outside the box! 

The 'tush push' has been a wildly effective short yardage play for the Eagles. It would certainly create a buzz seeing Henry take a direct snap from center with Patrick Ricard or Daniel Faalele pushing him from behind. If the Ravens are only trying to pick up a yard or two, that's a lot of beef and strength for opponents to stop.

I'm not sure whether the Ravens will try that or not, but I'm sure they'll have plenty of plays featuring Ricard as Henry's lead blocker. 

Henry is stoked to be part of the Ravens' offense, as he made clear as a guest on "The Lounge" podcast.

As a recent guest on "The Pivot Podcast," Henry discussed how much he's looking forward to playing with Ricard, who responded with enthusiasm on social media.

During his career, Henry has thrown four regular season touchdown passes and can catch a defense by surprise with his throwing ability near the goal line. If the Ravens want to explore ways to use Henry in gadget plays, he's certainly capable.

Brown:I'm not sure if Johnson has the desire to become a coach after his career ends, but I wouldn't rule that out if he wants to pursue it. He is well-respected by players and coaches and has a wide perspective as someone who entered the league in 2008. Think about all the players, coaches, executives and organizations that Johnson has dealt with during his career. He's seen plenty of approaches and personalities.

During the NFL Owners Meetings, Head Coach John Harbaugh mentioned the great relationship that Johnson has with Lamar Jackson. Right now, Johnson is focusing on being Baltimore's No. 2 quarterback, but he'll also be a veteran voice in the room for Jackson and young developing prospect Malik Cunningham. After Johnson is no longer playing, it wouldn't shock me to see him turn to coaching.

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