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Mailbag: Who Leads Ravens' Backfield: Gus Edwards or Justice Hill?

From left: RB Gus Edwards, RB Justice Hill
From left: RB Gus Edwards, RB Justice Hill

Mink: I think this is going to be a fairly even split as Gus Edwards and Justice Hill will operate as 1A and 1B with Hill getting the majority of snaps and Edwards getting the majority of runs.

Looking at Sunday's game after J.K. Dobbins' injury, Edwards had more rushes than Hill by a 9-7 margin, but Hill played more snaps at 19 to Edwards' 15.

Though Edwards has improved as a pass catcher, Hill offers more in that aspect of the game. Hill is also pretty good in pass protection. Thus, I think Hill may continue to see more snaps. Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken wants to throw the ball to the running backs more than Ravens offenses in the past, which was a trend we saw throughout the summer and in Week 1 (Dobbins was targeted three times in a little over a half). Hill can fulfil a lot of the receiving duties that Dobbins would have had.

When it comes to running the ball between the tackles, Edwards is still that dude. He ripped off the longest run of any running back in Sunday's game at 13 yards. It was interesting to see, however, that the Ravens gave Hill two goal-line carries, which he converted for a pair of 2-yard touchdowns. Edwards took the two-point conversion, but it seems Baltimore has equal confidence in both backs near the goal line.

One thing to watch down the road is whether undrafted rookie Keaton Mitchell could insert himself into the mix, as he'll be eligible to come off injured reserve for Week 5.

Downing: If Tyler Linderbaum and Ronnie Stanley are out for any period of time, it will have a significant impact on this offensive line. Both are among the best players in the NFL at their respective positions, so it's not easy to replace them in the lineup. Head Coach John Harbaugh indicated they could miss Sunday's game in Cincinnati, but fortunately they don't have long-term injuries.

If Stanley's knee injury sidelines him, then Patrick Mekari is the natural fill-in at left tackle. Mekari came into the game Sunday when Stanley went down, and he has plenty of starting experience over the years. Mekari is a veteran who holds his own at left tackle. The challenge with Mekari is that he's probably the top backup at all five positions along the offensive line, so the Ravens will have to decide where to deploy him to put the best five linemen on the field. If Mekari goes to left tackle, then Sam Mustipher would step in at center. He's currently on the practice squad, but the Ravens elevated him against Houston and he filled in after Linderbaum's injury. They could move him to the 53-man roster or activate him on gameday again. If Mustipher were to go down in the game, Mekari would likely then slide to center and the Ravens would probably turn to Daniel Faalele at left tackle. Losing Stanley and Linderbaum is tough to offset, and Monken would probably lean on Patrick Ricard to provide some additional support on the edge to slow down edge rushers.

Mink: I don't think there is any "deal" with the injuries. The Ravens just continue to have bad luck. There's nothing you can do about Linderbaum's ankle getting rolled up on, or a Texan flying into Stanley's lower leg/knee after being juked by Zay Flowers. That's just part of playing football, unfortunately.

Marcus Williams missed four games in five seasons with the Saints before arriving in Baltimore. Dobbins didn't miss a single game at Ohio State. I have no explanation for why they've been injury-plagued during their time with the Ravens.

Harbaugh and the Ravens have turned over every stone and done all the research they can about injury prevention. They've changed how they go about ramping up into summer practices, training camp, and the preseason. There's only so much you can do before you have to just cross your fingers and hope.

Downing: The offense was admittedly not sharp in the opener against Houston. Lamar Jackson acknowledged he was rusty. Other players echoed that sentiment. That wasn't necessarily a big surprise considering it was the first game for the new offense and the Ravens opted not to play nearly all of their starters in the preseason. It's also a fair question about how much Monken wanted to show in a game where the Ravens led for most of it. He leaned on the ground game in the second half as the Ravens had a healthy lead, and likely held back some of the new schemes knowing the Ravens had a matchup with the Bengals right around the corner.

With that said, I wouldn't say the offense looked all that similar to what the Ravens ran under Greg Roman. The called quarterback runs were a smaller piece of the offense. The Ravens opened the game with more three-receiver sets, which seems to be the trend in Monken's system. There were nuanced scheme changes in the pass game and the running attack, which differed from Roman's approach. Overall, it wasn't the sharpest debut for the new offense, and the passing game is a work in progress. There are certainly differences in the approach, but I'm not going to overreact to one game and make sweeping judgements about the new system.

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