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Late for Work 10/1: Has Gus Edwards Earned a Larger Role in the Offense?


Has Gus Edwards Earned a Larger Role in the Offense?

It seems like good things happen whenever Gus Edwards touches the ball, so should the third-year running back be getting more touches?

Through three games, Edwards leads Ravens running backs in rushing yards (129) and is averaging 7.2 yards per carry. Against the Kansas City Chiefs Monday night, Edwards ran for 39 yards on four carries (9.8 YPC).

"Gus Edwards once again looked like the best runner in the backfield," Russell Street Report’s Taylor Lyons wrote.

That's not a knock on running backs Mark Ingram II and J.K. Dobbins, who have both been effective. Ingram is averaging a solid 4.4 yards per carry, and second-round pick Dobbins has 10 carries for 76 yards and two touchdowns in addition to five receptions for 51 yards.

"They simply haven't been as terrific as Edwards has been," Ebony Bird’s Richard Bradshaw wrote. "Edwards has looked to be the best pure runner the Ravens have right now. This is where I tell you that Gus Edwards not only needs more carries, but he deserves them.

"Edwards has been the hardest runner on the team and his bruising style of play tires out defenses. It also helps to open up the passing game by forcing more defenders into the front seven. This is ideal so that Lamar Jackson can take more shots to Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews. Right now, Edwards is Baltimore's best chance to establish a more balanced offense, and that's how the team will win games."

Edwards, who ran for a combined 1,429 yards his first two seasons, has four 100-yard-rushing games and is averaging 5.4 YPC for his career. In his only start last year, against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 17, Edwards rushed for a career-high 130 yards on 21 carries (6.2 YPC).

This season, the 6-foot-1, 238-pound Edwards has faced a stacked box 33.3 percent of the time, the sixth-highest rate in the league, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, per The Baltimore Sun’s Daniel Oyefusi.

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote that it makes sense for both Edwards and Dobbins to get more touches, but he acknowledged that's easier said than done.

"There's only one football and it's not like Ingram is dominating it either. He has only 26 carries, which ranks 36th in the NFL. Last year, he averaged 13.5 carries per game. This year, he's averaging less than nine," Zrebiec wrote. "The best way for the Ravens to get their backs to run more is to extend more drives and get more offensive plays and to be more committed to the ground game. Right now, you could make the case that all three backs deserve more touches."

Upon Further Review, Did Ravens Really Abandon the Run Too Early?

The Ravens' ground game continues to be a hot topic coming out of Monday's game. Specifically, as mentioned in yesterday’s Late for Work, the question being raised is whether the Ravens abandoned the run too early against the Chiefs.

Penn Live’s Aaron Kasinitz analyzed the Ravens' first-half drives to determine whether criticism of the offensive play-calling is justified. While Kasinitz questioned the decision to pass in certain situations, he concluded that "it's not accurate to say [Offensive Coordinator Greg] Roman and the Ravens entirely abandoned the run."

After the Ravens had success running the ball on their first possession, they threw three straight passes on their second series and went three-and-out. But what happened on first down had a lot to do with that.

"The Ravens started this drive with a 14-yard running play, but the officials flagged Nick Boyle for tripping, which wiped away that gain and forced Baltimore into a first-and-20," Kasinitz wrote. "Though this drive helped shift the tone of the game into the Chiefs' favor, it's difficult to fault Roman for calling passing plays considering the down and distance. Jackson completed his first two passes on the drive for a combined 5 yards and then took a sack on third-and-15 to end the series.

"Baltimore struggled all game throwing the ball deep downfield — Jackson completed just two passes for more than 8 yards — and that was the bigger issue than the pass-run discrepancy in this case."

Kasinitz said the Ravens' third drive is deserving of scrutiny, as the Ravens, trailing 13-10 early in the second quarter following Devin Duvernay's kick return for a touchdown, again threw three straight passes — a 4-yard completion to Willie Snead IV followed by two incompletions.

On the fourth series, the Ravens had two runs and two passes.

"On second-and-7 and third-and-7, Jackson threw incompletions intended for Andrews, leading to a punt," Kasinitz wrote. "Baltimore faced a 20-10 deficit when it began this possession, so perhaps Roman and Jackson felt some urgency to get the ball moving. Either way, a second-and-7 pass call isn't unusual — the Ravens just needed to convert."

The Ravens' final two drives of the half saw a combined one run and five passes, which made perfect sense given the score and time remaining.

"Both of these drives started with fewer than two minutes left in the half while the Ravens trailed by 17. Airing the ball out made sense," Kasinitz wrote. "It's just that Chiefs star defensive tackle Chris Jones wrecked the Ravens' best chance to add points before halftime by sacking and stripping Jackson for the second time."

Is Ravens-Washington a Rivalry Game?

Is Sunday's meeting between the Ravens and Washington a rivalry game? It depends on who you ask.

When Jackson was asked during yesterday's press conference to describe the matchup between the Beltway teams and what it means to their fan bases, the quarterback seemed puzzled.

"To be honest with you, I really don't know. I really don't know," Jackson said.

Perhaps during the early years of the Ravens franchise there was some degree of rivalry with the team in D.C., at least in the minds of Baltimore fans, but it certainly was never as intense as the Ravens' rivalries with the Steelers and New England Patriots would become.

However, former Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith, who is from Virginia and played for Maryland, said there is a healthy rivalry between the Ravens and Washington.

"I think it is. I mean, you share the Beltway, you know. We share traffic," Smith said on the Washington Football Talk Podcast. "You know there tends to be this [Prince George's County] versus Baltimore thing, Virginia and D.C. versus everyone else. So I think it's a very healthy rivalry that I don't think we promote enough. There aren't too many places in the country that can say they have two professional football teams right in their backyard."

Smith acknowledged that for the rivalry to intensify, Washington needs to get back on track. Over the past 12 seasons, Washington has made the playoffs just two times and had three winning seasons.

"If the Washington Football Team was like the New England Patriots, talking about performance-wise and Super Bowl-wise, and the Baltimore Ravens were who they are in terms of winning their Super Bowl this decade, and then also is a team that is competing each and every year, then that would be something that we would be talking about more," Smith said.

The Ravens and Washington have faced each other in eight of the past 11 preseasons. The regular-season series is tied, 3-3.

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