How the Ravens Plan to Move Forward Without J.K. Dobbins

RB Gus Edwards

The NFL is a cruel business, confirmed once again in Saturday's preseason finale when J.K. Dobbins suffered a season-ending knee injury.

As with any major injury, the Ravens licked their wounds only for a moment, then quickly turned their focus toward how they would overcome it. That's just the way it works.

"Our hearts go out to him," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "It's very challenging because he works so hard, he was so prepared and he was so ready to go this year. He was such a big part of our plans.

"Like any injury, which happen and will happen throughout the course of the NFL [season] and different teams, you just have to approach it and overcome it. It's adversity and we have to deal with it, and we will. We have the players to do it, we have the team to do it. I have full confidence in the rest of the running backs that are here to pick up the load and do a great job for us."

The obvious answer is Gus Edwards will take on an even bigger role. He was already an instrumental piece of the rushing attack, but now Edwards is the lead dog.

It's certainly not a bad fallback plan. Edwards is one of just six NFL running backs with at least 700 rushing yards over the past three seasons, along with some of the game's best backs.

Known for being a physical, downhill runner, Edwards has shown improved agility to threaten the edges of defenses. He slimmed down some this offseason, and after a bout with COVID-19 at the start of training camp, has looked the part of a top-flight running back. Edwards flashed that with a 21-yard carry in the preseason finale before being quickly yanked.

The Ravens talked a lot about using Dobbins as more of a receiving weapon out of the backfield this season. It remains to be seen whether that job would transfer to Edwards or someone else. The Ravens' solution won't fall entirely on Edwards' shoulders.

"The way we run our offense, we want to roll backs. We want to play multiple backs," Harbaugh said. "We have a lot of carries, so those guys do a lot in the offense. It's not like it's going to be one running back that takes all of the reps for us."

Quarterback Lamar Jackson was the team's leading rusher last season with 1,005 yards. He'll still make plenty of plays with his legs.

At running back, Baltimore feels good about its depth with third-year back Justice Hill and Ty'Son Williams. While Hill has been sidelined by an ankle injury the past couple weeks, Williams was the Ravens' most productive tailback in the preseason.

After spending last season on the Ravens' practice squad, Williams ran for 130 yards on just 24 carries this preseason, an average of 5.4 yards. Williams' 20-yard touchdown run in Carolina was one of the best singular plays any Raven made in the preseason.

Before Saturday, it was unknown whether Williams or Hill would claim the third running back spot on Baltimore's 53-man roster. Now it's clear they're both on.

"Ty'Son, you do the math, he's there," Harbaugh said. "He'll be out there playing. Obviously, he's ready to go. He's practiced every day and is excited about his opportunity."

Of course, the Ravens could still bring in another running back if they see a good fit. Rosters are very much in flux at this time as teams have to trim to 53 by Tuesday's 4 p.m. deadline.

"Obviously, that's a conversation because of J.K.'s injury," Harbaugh said. "I would say I would be surprised if there was a back that comes available that's better than what we have, for us. If that were to be the case, or if there was some veteran out there that made sense, I'm sure we would do it."

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