With Gus Edwards Out for at Least Four Games, Could Ravens Have Interest in Kenyan Drake?
Yesterday, the Ravens placed running back Gus Edwards on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, meaning he will be sidelined for at least the first four games of the 2022 season. Also yesterday, the Las Vegas Raiders released veteran running back Kenyan Drake.
CBS Sports’ Bryan DeArdo named Baltimore one of five potential landing spots for Drake — and that was before Edwards' status was announced.
"Baltimore already boasts a crowded backfield that includes J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Mike Davis and Justice Hill. But with Dobbins, Edwards and Hill all coming back from season-ending injuries, the addition of adding Drake to the roster certainly makes sense," DeArdo wrote. "Drake would give the Ravens another option in the backfield while being added insurance in the event that there are any setbacks to Baltimore's top backs. Drake's versatility would also give Lamar Jackson another weapon out of the backfield on short pass routes."
Sports Illustrated's Todd Karpovich also speculated that the Ravens could be interested in Drake, 28.
"The Ravens could potentially pounce on another playmaker that is reportedly being released by the Raiders," Karpovich wrote. "One week after signing veteran wide receiver Demarcus Robinson after he was cut by Las Vegas, the Ravens also might have interest in running back Kenyan Drake."
Drake's best season was in 2020 with the Arizona Cardinals, when he ran for 955 yards and 10 touchdowns. He signed a two-year, $11 million deal with the Raiders last year, but fell short of expectations, rushing 63 times for 254 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games. Teammate Josh Jacobs had more than three times as many carries as Drake and remains Las Vegas' lead running back.
Head Coach John Harbaugh said Dobbins has been making good progress but it's too soon to know whether he'll be ready to play in the season opener at the New York Jets on Sept. 11. Davis is next in line on the depth chart and the team also has Hill, rookie Tyler Badie and Nate McCrary competing for roster spots.
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec said none of the Ravens' running backs have stood out this summer.
"It needs to be said that the Ravens are keeping their run game pretty vanilla in the preseason and only one of the projected offensive line starters has played. There just hasn't been much room for the running backs," Zrebiec wrote. "It still seems notable that Mike Davis, Justice Hill and Tyler Badie are all averaging less than four yards per carry and Nate McCrary is dealing with a knee injury. … The Ravens could use one of the [them] to gain separation from the rest of the group and look like the go-to guy. It hasn't happened yet."
Baltimore Positive’s Luke Jones had the same opinion.
"With Dobbins still ramping up his activity level in practice and Edwards officially out until at least October, this running back group hasn't flashed quite as much as you'd like to see, but the summer state of the offensive line has had something to do with that," Jones wrote.
How Will Isaiah Likely Fit in the Offense?
Rookie tight end Isaiah Likely continued his impressive preseason with a Mark Andrews-like performance in the Ravens' 24-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals on national television Sunday night.
The Ravens already have Andrews, though, so what does that mean for Likely's role? The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer looked at how Likely might fit in the offense, noting that "there are worse things than having two Mark Andrews in one tight end room."
"This season, with two gifted receivers (Andrews and Likely) and two versatile blockers (tight end Nick Boyle and fullback Patrick Ricard) at [Offensive Coordinator Greg] Roman's disposal, the challenge will be optimizing their mixing and matching," Shaffer wrote. "At least one job looks like an easy call: Andrews played 75% of the offensive snaps last season, and on passing downs, Likely should keep secondaries honest when the team's leading receiver is unavailable. But how much could they overlap? And what might their on-field partnership look like?
"The Ravens often line up their receivers in condensed bunch formations, meaning Andrews and Likely could start their routes just yards away from each other and have easy access to the middle of the field, Jackson's sweet spot as a passer. Andrews, who's developed into a solid all-around blocker, could see more time in 2022 as an in-line tight end, operating in the zones Boyle typically occupies before the snap. He could also play more out wide, lined up as a de facto 'X' receiver, perhaps across from the defense's top cornerback. Either alignment would free Likely to work out of the slot, keeping him away from the stronger defenders he's struggled to block in the preseason. It will be a balancing act all season long."
Shaffer said Likely's presence should take some of the pressure off the Ravens' young wide receiver corps.
"Likely gives the Ravens some wiggle room," Shaffer wrote. "One of the first questions asked of Ravens officials after he was drafted was whether he projected as a big-bodied wide receiver. Now versions of that same question are being asked, only with more urgency and interest."
Justin Tucker, Patrick Ricard Among Top 10 Active Undrafted Players
The Ravens have a good track record with signing undrafted free agents who become significant contributors, so it's not surprising that two Ravens landed on NFL Network analyst Michael Robinson’s list of the top 10 active undrafted players: kicker Justin Tucker (No. 3) and Ricard (No. 10).
Here's what Robinson wrote about them:
"It's the year of Justin Tucker! He set the NFL record for the longest converted field goal — a nail-biting, crossbar-hitting 66-yarder that led to a Ravens victory in Week 3 — received a four-year contract extension, and lastly, was the No. 94-ranked player in the Top 100 Players of 2022 (his first time in the players' list). The five-time first-team All-Pro's 91.1% field-goal conversion rate ranks No. 1 among kickers since 1938. If he's not already, Tucker should be considered equals with legends like Morten Andersen and Adam Vinatieri."
"Believe it or not, there's one person on a football team who gets less love than the offensive line: the fullback. It's a thankless job. The guy running behind your block often gets the notoriety, but there are several special players at the fullback position who do their jobs extremely well and earn that shine. Ricard is one of those guys. He's made the Pro Bowl in each of the last three seasons and plays a major role in the Ravens' dynamic rushing attack, which has ranked among the league's top three in each of the last four seasons."
UDFA ILB Josh Ross Is PFF's Highest-Graded Rookie in Preseason
Speaking of undrafted players, rookie inside linebacker Josh Ross is having a strong preseason. In fact, the Michigan product is Pro Football Focus' highest-graded rookie (93.0) through Week 2.
"Ross has already been making his presence felt in coverage in each of the Ravens' two preseason outings," PFF’s Michael Renner wrote. "Against Tennessee, he allowed two catches on three targets for 10 yards with a pass breakup, then gave up just one catch on two targets for -1 yards against Arizona this past week. He hasn't been all over the field racking up stops, per se, but Ross hasn't made any glaring mistakes, either. The UDFA may not challenge for a starting role, but he should at least secure a roster spot."
Zrebiec agreed, writing: "Seemingly every preseason, the Ravens have an undrafted free-agent inside linebacker pop and play his way onto the roster. Ross has emerged as a legitimate candidate to do it this year."
Likely, by the way, is PFF's third-highest-graded rookie (92.2).
Ron Rivera on Ravens' Preseason Win Streak: 'You Play Every Game to Win'
While pundits and fans continue to debate the merits of the Ravens' record 22-game preseason win streak, Commanders Head Coach Ron Rivera was asked by a reporter yesterday if ending the streak when Washington visits M&T Bank Stadium Saturday night would feel like an accomplishment.
"Yeah, you want to. You go into every game expecting to win," Rivera said. "And good for them. It's their thing. It's what they're doing. They come out and they play a specific way, and good for them. Our job is to go out and make sure we got guys that are playing and learning and growing and getting better as football players, and like I said, you play every game to win."
Cardinals Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury had a similar take on the streak last week before his team hosted the Ravens.
"That's part of their culture," Kingsbury said, via AZCardinals.com's Darren Urban. "They say, 'We're going to win these games' and help it build into the regular season. I respect that approach. Obviously, their team believes. They have one of the most successful franchises in the league. We'll get their best shot."
The Ravens have defeated Washington four times during the streak by an average of 21.8 points, including last season's 37-3 victory that broke the record 19-game preseason win streak of the Green Bay Packers (1959-62), coached by the legendary Vince Lombardi.