Gus Edwards has been ready since the day he joined the Ravens. Why would his current situation be any different?
The season-ending knee injury to J.K. Dobbins was a shocking blow, an unfortunate setback for a player who looked poised for a breakout year. However, having Edwards ready to take over as the lead running back still leaves Baltimore's running game in a position of strength heading into the 2021 season.
Edwards is one of the NFL's most physical runners, and he's playing in an offense that accentuates his talents. With Dobbins down, it's time to gas up the Gus Bus, and he's ready to roll.
"This is what you put the work in to do," Edwards said. "I never considered myself a backup."
In three seasons with the Ravens, Edwards has been Mr. Consistent with 718 yards rushing as a rookie, 711 yards in 2019 and 723 yards in 2020. He has averaged 5.2 yards rushing for his career. But the injury to Dobbins will give Edwards a chance for more carries, more opportunities to wear down the defense and to find the rhythm all running backs crave.
Three weeks ago, Edwards said he wanted to rush for 1,000 yards season. He'll certainly have his chance now.
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman believes in using running backs by committee, so Ty'Son Williams and Justice Hill will have opportunities to eat just like Edwards did when he wasn't the starter. However, fantasy football owners are already jumping on the Edwards bandwagon and Roman has no doubt that Edwards can handle a bigger load.
"We've had confidence in Gus since his rookie season," Roman said. "He's our kind of guy. He's really built for what we do. He's going to get more of a workload now. Not to say there still won't be a committee, but Gus is definitely going to get a lot of work and we feel great about that."
Edwards is a great story who has overcome long odds to realize his NFL dream. He didn't make the Ravens' first 53-man roster as a rookie in 2018, but he was signed to the practice squad and kept working and waiting for his big break. It finally came midway through the season, with the Ravens riding a three-game losing streak, floundering at 5-4 and in need of a spark.
Lamar Jackson and Edwards were inserted into the starting lineup and team took off, winning six of its last seven games to make the playoffs. Edwards had back-to-back 100-yard games during that stretch, and the Ravens knew they had a keeper.
Well-respected among his teammates, Edwards has talked to Dobbins since his injury Saturday night, knowing what it feels like to suddenly have your season end. When he was at the University of Miami in 2015, Edwards was all set to take over as the lead back, but suffered a Lisfranc foot injury a week before the season opener. He was out for the year and never regained the starting job.
Edwards plans to keep Dobbins' spirits up during his rehab, but it doesn't sound like that will be necessary.
"I've been checking on him," Edwards said. "He seems to be in a good place. Knowing the type of worker he is, he's going to come back better. He's going to come back more hungry."
Meanwhile, Edwards believes the Ravens have everything they need to remain the best running team in the NFL. They have the league's best running quarterback in Jackson, and a deep group of backs that Edwards believes in. Hill has two years of experience and had two 1,000-yard seasons at Oklahoma State, while Williams has opened eyes with a strong showing during training camp and preseason.
"One aspect we all have is the physical aspect," Edwards said. "We have what we need for this offense. That's why these guys are here because they fit the offense. We're ready to prove ourselves."
Nobody seems more ready than Edwards. He is leaner and stronger than he has ever been, he signed a two-year contract extension in June, and now he will have a bigger workload. Edwards says bring it on.
"I know that Coach Roman does a great job using what we have," Edwards said. "I've been ready.
"I feel like I'm in the best shape I've been in. I just have to show it."