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Late for Work 7/12: All Signs Point to Breakout Season for J.K. Dobbins

RB J.K. Dobbins
RB J.K. Dobbins

All Signs Point to Breakout Season for J.K. Dobbins

J.K. Dobbins looked like one of the best running backs in the league after returning from a midseason knee procedure last season, and The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec expects the running back to pick up where he left off and become even more of a force.

Dobbins was Zrebiec's pick to be the Ravens' breakout player in 2023.

"Dobbins is entering the final year of his rookie deal, and that will keep him plenty motivated," Zrebiec wrote. "He's another year removed from a major knee injury. New Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken likes to get his backs involved in the passing game, and that should help Dobbins' numbers. Dobbins has had more than 15 carries in a game just once in his career. A bigger workload is long overdue."

Dobbins rushed for 397 yards and averaged 7.0 yards per carry in his final four games of the regular season, and that was without having yet regained his final pull-away gear.

To Zrebiec's point, Dobbins has barely scratched the surface of what he can contribute as a pass-catcher. He showed a glimpse of it in the Ravens' playoff loss to the Cincinnati Bengals last season, catching four passes for 43 yards and a touchdown.

Kyle Hamilton, David Ojabo Primed to Make Bigger Impact

Safety Kyle Hamilton and outside linebacker David Ojabo were among eight defensive players Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson identified as defensive stars who are primed for bigger roles in 2023.

Hamilton, the 14th-overall pick last year, will be looking to build on a strong rookie season.

"His role as a rookie varied considerably throughout the season, ranging from a do-it-all box safety to deeper-lying free safety to safety who spent most of his time matching up with slot weapons," Monson wrote. "There were some struggles in that menu of assignments, but he earned an 86.7 PFF grade over exactly 600 snaps of action, and he started the final five games of the season.

"The Ravens won't have seen anything to sour expectations of a player with exceptional physical tools and the ability to be a difference-maker in their defense. If his final five starts represent his likely playing time going forward, then he should expect to be on the field for at least 250 more snaps in Year 2 than he was his first season."

Ojabo, a first-round talent who fell to the Ravens in the second round last year due to injury, is healthy and was one of the biggest standouts at OTAs and minicamp.

"Ojabo's return to the field after tearing his Achilles tendon during his pro-day was remarkable," Monson wrote. "An injury that typically sidelines players for a full year only kept Ojabo off the field until Week 15, and he finished his rookie season with 23 snaps under his belt. He now enters Year 2 with a full offseason of recovery to attack his professional career for real. Baltimore's defense still has the kind of opportunity for a playmaker at edge rusher as they did when they drafted Ojabo — if not even more opportunity — so he should get plenty of playing time this season alongside Odafe Oweh and Tyus Bowser.

"With such little on-field evidence, it's impossible to accurately predict what he will look like, but the fact that he made it back at all and that Baltimore spent pick No. 45 on him despite that Achilles injury suggests they have tremendous confidence in what he can do going forward."

Marcus Williams Just Misses Being Ranked Among Top 10 Safeties in ESPN Poll

Marcus Williams continues to be one of the most underrated players in the league.

Williams, who has 19 interceptions in his six NFL seasons, failed to crack the top 10 in ESPN's ranking of the league's best safeties as determined by a poll of NFL executives, coaches and players.

Williams, the Ravens' top free agent signing last year, was the leading honorable mention selection. Remarkably, Williams has never been named to a Pro Bowl despite his consistently high level of play.

"Stud. Would have been Pro Bowler had he stayed healthy," a veteran AFC defensive coach told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. "His range sideline to sideline is among the best."

Williams made an immediate impact for the Ravens last season, recording three interceptions in his first two games. He missed seven games with a hand injury and finished with four interceptions for the season. Fowler noted that "Williams deflected eight passes on 20 targets for a ridiculous 40% ball hawk clip" in 2022.

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