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Eric DeCosta Envisions a Four-Headed Monster at Running Back

Mark Ingram II, J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill
Mark Ingram II, J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill

The Ravens' selection of running back J.K. Dobbins continues to draw rave reviews. NFL Network's Charley Casserly called it the best value pick of the entire 2020 Draft.

However, it's also the pick that surprised Ravens fans the most because it came at a position where Baltimore was already well-stocked.

With Pro Bowler Mark Ingram II, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, the Ravens already had a lot of talent at running back. Ingram will still enter 2020 as the lead back, but what happens to Edwards and Hill?

General Manager Eric DeCosta, in an appearance on "The Lounge" on Tuesday, indicated that he envisions a four-headed monster at running back.

"I would equate it to us last year having the tight ends that we had – the three tight ends," DeCosta said.

"[Offensive Coordinator] Greg [Roman] did an amazing job of taking those tight ends and really creating something special that made us very tough for defenses to play. And now we've got the four running backs and they all do different things well. It just makes us, I think, a really, really well-rounded team that's tough to defend."

The Ravens ran the ball 98 more times (596) than anyone else in the league last year. While their offense will continue to evolve with Lamar Jackson heading into his third season, Baltimore will still pound the rock and Dobbins gives them another dangerous weapon to do it with.

"We were ecstatic to get J.K.," DeCosta said. "He was by far – by far – the highest-rated guy that we had on the board. We kind of felt like he fell out of the sky right to us, the type of team that we are to get a running back like that.

"These guys can all do different things, they should be fresh for four quarters. I think we protect ourselves in case of injuries or things like that. It fortifies us, it makes us stronger, and it gives us a guy with home run potential."

Ingram topped 1,000 rushing yards last season and scored a career-high 15 touchdowns. But the Ravens felt the pain when he suffered a late-season calf injury that hampered him heading into the playoffs.

Ingram is 30 years old, but there's been no indication that he's slowing down. Before the draft, Ingram said he feels he has “four or five” more seasons playing at the highest level.

Edwards rushed for 711 yards last season and averaged 5.3 yards per carry, very similar numbers to what he posted in 2018. The big-bodied back (6-foot-1, 238) is a downhill bruiser who is very rarely stopped at the line of scrimmage and can wear down defenses late in games.

Hill was a fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma State last year who provided a change-of-pace speed threat in limited opportunities. The 5-foot-9, 200-pounder flashed late in the season and finished with 3.9 yards per carry.

The Ravens' leading rusher last year was Jackson, who set an NFL record with 1,206 yards. But as Jackson said last week, he intends to run less as he continues to mature as a passer.

So where does Dobbins fit in? Look no further than 2008 for an example.

That year, the Ravens selected Ray Rice in the second round at pick No. 55 overall – the same exact pick used on Dobbins. Willis McGahee was coming off a Pro Bowl year and was the established vet.

Rice worked his way into the mix with 107 carries and 454 yards that season. McGahee toted it 170 times for 671 yards. The leading rusher was actually fullback Le'Ron McClain, who had 232 carries for 902 yards. The three-headed monster helped carry the Ravens to the AFC championship game.

This year, Baltimore could lean on a four-headed beast to do the same. DeCosta was asked if he saw any similarities to Dobbins and Rice.

"Is he wearing 27? Do we know that?" DeCosta said with a grin.

"I think [Dobbins] is a guy that is strong, he's a darting guy. He's got very, very good speed through the line of scrimmage. He's explosive, he's able to run low to the ground with good balance, he's a good knee bender. He's got excellent lateral agility and the ability to make people miss. What I like most about him is if he's got a crease, he's gone. He's a guy that has an extra gear through the second and third levels of the defense. He can make big plays and he did that in every game this year. He's got a little bit of a game-breaker style to him."

Rice broke out in his second season in 2009, taking over the lead role and rushing for 1,339 yards and seven touchdowns. He also caught 78 passes for 702 yards and another score, earning his first of three trips to the Pro Bowl.

Dobbins didn't catch a lot of passes in college (averaged 24 receptions for 215 yards), but DeCosta thinks he could be good in that facet of the game in the NFL.

"Ray Rice wasn't used in the passing game in college and he got to us and he was like a revelation to us in the passing game," DeCosta said.

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