It’s still February and there’s a long way to go until the Ravens suit up for a game, but, as of now, the “Gus Bus” leads the way.
“I think Gus [Edwards] right now is our No. 1 running back going in,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said at the Combine. “I expect him to build on that.”
Edwards went from being an undrafted rookie out of Rutgers, to the Ravens’ practice squad, then to a starring role down Baltimore’s playoff stretch.
Edwards, quarterback Lamar Jackson and fellow running back Kenneth Dixon were a three-headed monster in the backfield that made the Ravens the NFL’s top rushing team, by a wide margin, starting in Week 11 (when Jackson took over as starter).
The 6-foot-1, 238 pound running back rumbled for 718 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged an impressive 5.2 yards per carry. Only four NFL running backs– Green Bay’s Aaron Jones, Detroit’s Kerryon Johnson, Denver’s Phillip Lindsay and San Francisco’s Matt Breida – averaged more.
Edwards got very high marks from Pro Football Focus, who put him atop their list of players they’d like to see more of in 2019.
“It’s his second year. How much better is he going to get between Year 1 and Year 2?” Harbaugh said.
“You’ve got to love a 240-pound guy that brings it every single snap. He fits pretty well with the running game that we’re involved with right now. We expect him to be really good.”
Still, Harbaugh attached a “we’ll see” to that statement. The Ravens’ head coach isn’t one to hand out jobs in the offseason. Instead, players have to earn their spots during practices and games, and there’s still a lot more work to be done.
“We’re going to put some competition in there for him, too, and we’ll see how he responds to it,” Harbaugh said.
Edwards will get internal competition from Dixon this offseason. Alex Collins is a restricted free agent and Javorius Allen is unrestricted, and it remains to be seen if they’ll be back. The Ravens were also encouraged by what they saw from De’Lance Turner before he suffered a hamstring injury, which opened the door for Edwards to be promoted to the 53-man roster.
And don’t be at all surprised if the Ravens add another running back, or more, to the mix. New Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman, who is building an offense that will lean heavily on the ground game, said the Ravens are always looking for an elite running back who can make plays on their own.
There’s been a lot of media chatter about veteran free agents such as Le’Veon Bell and Mark Ingram. The Ravens could also bolster the unit via the draft. Alabama’s Josh Jacobs – the top running back in the class – is Mel Kiper’s latest pick for the Ravens at No. 22.
Ravens Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz said on “The Lounge” podcast that the Ravens want big, physical, downhill runners to complement their scheme, which sounds a lot like Edwards. “We don’t need the scatbacks,” he added, and spoke highly of Jacobs.
“Talented player,” Hortiz said. “He’s playing in an offense similar [to ours] in terms of the gun runs, a lot of the pistol runs. He does a little bit more outside-type running, but he has tremendous balance, strength, he runs very hard. He’s a great kid. He’s very versatile as a receiver.”