D.J. Fluker Explains Decision to Join the Ravens
Joining a championship-contending team has been a major talking point for some of the Ravens' additions this offseason, and you can add D.J. Fluker to the list.
"They're a championship contender and that's what it's about," Fluker told AL.com’s Matt Zenitz. "It's about what they stand for and what they're trying to do. They want to win a Super Bowl. And that's what I'm looking forward to. That got me right there. That's what drives me and being able to run the ball and be myself and be physical and be a team player."
According to the website, Fluker's agent initiated contact with the Ravens after Fluker was released by the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
There's been debate if the Ravens' run-first offense is an attractive free-agent destination for skill position players, but it certainly is for linemen.
"[H]onestly, the Ravens fit my style of play and the way I play — physically and running the ball, things like that," Fluker said. "And that's what I want to be a part of."
Fluker earned a 60.3 grade from Pro Football Focus last season, allowing six sacks in 863. The 6-foot-5, 342-pound road grader had higher marks for his run blocking.
"The Ravens' addition of Fluker provides experience to one of the youngest offenses in the NFL," ESPN’s Jamison Hensley said. "The only other projected starter over the age of 27 is Mark Ingram. Fluker isn't guaranteed the starting job … but these young offensive linemen might have their offseason work limited due to the coronavirus pandemic. That's why Fluker represents a veteran safety net."
How Emmitt-Smith Like Dobbins Impacts Ingram
Ingram had one of his best seasons in 2019, rushing for 1,018 yards and 10 touchdowns. He's totaled at least 200 carries in three of the last four seasons, but that could change with the addition of Dobbins.
The Ravens now have one of the deepest running back groups with Ingram, Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill.
"Dobbins' arrival is bad news for Ingram's fantasy numbers," NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal wrote. "Dobbins reminds me of Emmitt Smith, a steady, three-down option who knows how to set up defenders and will consistently get more than what's blocked. Ingram should still have a role with the run-first Ravens, but he's unlikely to top 200 carries again."
While Ingram is expected to be the starting running back this season, pundits believe Dobbins is a good fit for the Ravens' run game. If he's anything like the Hall of Famer Smith, Dobbins is a good fit for any run game.
Dobbins' addition will cut into the carries in the backfield, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Ingram will turn 31 next year and was banged up late last season with a calf injury. Dobbins should help take off some of the load and keep Ingram fresh throughout the season.
Ray Rice entered a similar situation as a rookie in 2008 behind Willis McGahee, who was coming off a Pro Bowl year in 2007. Rice rushed for 454 yards on 107 carries before breaking out the following season.
"Dobbins will get his chances, but with the 2020 season being what it is, he might not have a lot of time to practice with the team," Sports Illustrated wrote. "I can see Dobbins getting about ten touches per game in the short-term. However, he is the type of player I love to stash and cash later in drafts. He is a surefire handcuff to Ingram, and in case of an injury to someone, he could step right in and dominate."
Still, oddsmakers are bullish on Dobbin's production in his rookie season. According to FanDuel, he has the eighth-best odds to win Offensive Rookie of the Year (+1600).
ESPN Predicts Jaleel Scott Could Be on the Move
Like running back, the wide receiver group will look different this season. The Ravens drafted two receivers in Devin Duvernay (third round) and James Proche (sixth round), adding even more competition to the position this offseason.
That could affect players currently on the roster. ESPN's Bill Barnwell identified trade or cut candidates for all 32 teams and believes receiver Jaleel Scott could be on the move.
"A 2018 fourth-round pick, Scott missed his entire rookie season with a hamstring injury and was active for only three games in 2019," Barnwell wrote. "Elsewhere, the Ravens will have to carry four running backs if they want to keep Edwards and Hill alongside Ingram and Dobbins."
Six receivers made the 53-man roster last season. Considering Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, Miles Boykin, Willie Snead IV, and Duvernay are locks to make the roster, that leaves a crowded group fighting for just a few roster spots. Proche has a good chance at being the team's returner as well.
Scott has the traits to develop into a dangerous receiver at 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, but he'll have to have a strong showing once the team is back on the field to make the roster.
Pernell McPhee Reunion Still Possible
One of few positions the Ravens didn't address in the draft was pass rusher, but it still could be filled over the coming weeks.
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec said a reunion with veteran outside linebacker Pernell McPhee makes sense.
"Not adding another outside linebacker during the draft was a significant surprise," Zrebiec wrote. "However, there are quite a few veteran pass rushers still available in free agency and the Ravens are monitoring that market."
Free agent signings do not count against the compensatory formula at this point in the offseason, and McPhee's name has been floated as a potential target. McPhee's return would make sense. He was productive and a veteran locker room presence before suffering a season-ending triceps injury in 2019.
Jadaveon Clowney is still the top free-agent pass rusher available, but does he make sense for the Ravens financially? Not to mention, with an off-season that's been completely virtual, McPhee has familiarity in Wink Martindale's defense.