Ravens' Rushing Attack Could Be Historic
A popular prediction regarding the 2019 Ravens is that running back Mark Ingram II will be a 1,000-yard rusher. But could the team have two 1,000-yard rushers?
The feat has only been accomplished six times in NFL history, with the most recent being the 2009 Carolina Panthers (Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams), but Ebony Bird's Richard Bradshaw believes it's entirely possible.
"The Baltimore Ravens rushing attack in 2019 will be prolific; the team won't need any 1,000-yard rushers to get that point across," Bradshaw wrote. "The talent and potential are there for Baltimore to make history, however, and I'll be shocked if something extraordinary doesn't happen this year."
The question is: If Ingram, who rushed for 1,000-plus yards with the New Orleans Saints in 2016 and 2017, reaches the 1,000-yard mark this season, which of his teammates is most likely to join him in that category -- quarterback Lamar Jackson or running back Gus Edwards?
Edwards rushed for 718 yards last season, almost all of which came in the final seven games of the season. Jackson finished with 695 yards rushing, with the bulk of it occurring in that same seven-game span. The only quarterback to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season is Michael Vick, who did it with the Atlanta Falcons in 2006.
"Ingram should be a lock for 1,000-yards this year short of injury. Jackson, for better or for worse, seems like the next logical pick," Bradshaw wrote. "However, if he progresses as a passer, don't be shocked if Edwards gets more carries to close out games. Jackson could very easily finish third on this team in rushing yards with the talent the Ravens possess in their backfield."
From a team standpoint, it appears the Ravens just might have the players and the mindset to have a shot at surpassing the NFL record for most rushing yards in a season -- 3,165, set by the 1978 New England Patriots. Surprisingly, that Patriots team did not have a single 1,000-yard rusher.
In the seven games that Jackson started last season, the Ravens averaged just under 230 yards rushing per game. Over 16 games, that projects to 3,673 yards. While the Ravens presumably will throw more this season, the run game is expected to be the centerpiece of the offense.
"Sure, the Ravens have changed their nomenclature in the passing game and added badly needed speed and twitch at wide receiver through the draft," CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora wrote. "But this team is going to pound the ground above all else; it will continue to try to confound and overpower teams with altering mesh-points with an RPO-based offense, and I would fully expect them to lead the NFL in rushing in 2019."
Don't Overlook Hill, Boykin, McSorley
First-round draft pick Marquise "Hollywood" Brown is being counted on to be a dynamic playmaker for the Ravens this season, but he isn't the only rookie who could make significant contributions to the team. Running back Justice Hill, wide receiver Miles Boykin and quarterback Trace McSorley should not be overlooked.
Bradshaw said that Hill, a fourth-round pick, "could be the team's greatest weapon."
"[Ingram and Edwards] will be expected to receive the majority of the carries coming out of the backfield. Something they both lack, however, is the home run ability that Justice Hill possesses," Bradshaw wrote. "Justice Hill may only end up with 50 touches all season long, but don't be surprised if he ends up having more highlight reel plays than anyone else on the team. The rest of the NFL doesn't know Justice Hill's name yet, but by seasons end he will be one of the league's most talked about phenomenons."
"Good Morning Football's' Peter Schrager had a similar take on Hill.
"At Oklahoma State he was an absolute fireworks show," Schrager said. "You have your 3 yards and a cloud of dust guys in Edwards and Ingram, you have the offensive line, you've got the best blocking tight ends in the league and you've got a running quarterback. Here's your home run hitter at running back who you can lateral, you can do a lot of things with."
In the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Boykin, Bradshaw sees "a potential answer to the big-body, red-zone threat [the Ravens have] been desperately searching for." The Ravens traded a third-round pick and two sixth-round selections to move up nine spots in the third round to get Boykin, who had 872 yards receiving and eight touchdowns with Notre Dame last season.
"Boykin also showed off a savvy skill-set and the upside of being a consistently relied upon target for an ever-changing quarterback carousel that the Fighting Irish had," Bradshaw wrote. "With the underrated playmaking ability that Boykin has, don't be surprised if he puts together a rock-solid rookie year."
Boykin has been limited in offseason practices because of a hamstring injury, but he made a solid first impression with his hands at rookie minicamp, ESPN's Jamison Hensley wrote.
"He caught every pass within his reach and even some that weren't," Hensley wrote. "Boykin delivered one of the highlights when he stretched out near the sideline and plucked a sailing pass off his shoelaces."
McSorley, a sixth-round pick out of Penn State, is one of the more intriguing players on the roster because of his versatility.
"Normally, a third-string quarterback barely warrants notice," wrote Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski, who identified McSorley as the Ravens' most intriguing player. "Numerous organizations keep two [backup] signal-callers on the roster. But the Baltimore Ravens believe they can do more with this year's sixth-round pick, Trace McSorley."
McSorley's has drawn comparisons to Saints backup quarterback Taysom Hill, who last season threw for 64 yards, ran for 196 yards and two touchdowns, returned 14 kicks and one punt, made six special teams tackles and blocked a punt.
"[McSorley] looked sharper and more natural as a passer by the end of minicamp, and his all-around athletic ability (he was the fastest quarterback at the NFL scouting combine) raises interesting questions about what the Ravens could do with him as a Taysom Hill-style Swiss Army knife," The Baltimore Sun's Child Walker wrote.
Could Ravens Have Best Safety, Tight End Duos?
Last week in Late for Work, a case was made that Marlon Humphrey and Jimmy Smith could end up as the greatest cornerback duo in Ravens history. Today we're taking a look at some other dynamic duos on the Ravens who might be the best in the league at their positions.
Staying with the secondary, Pro Football Network's Andrew Kim believes the Ravens' Earl Thomas and Tony Jefferson are the NFL's top safety tandem.
"The talent the Ravens have with their cornerbacks alone will give Thomas the freedom to move around and make plays all over the field," Kim wrote. "When he was able to roam as the free safety last year in Seattle, he had three interceptions in the four games he played in. His skill set complements Jefferson well as the two veteran safeties bring loads of high-level play in their respective roles.
"Even though he is not the turnover machine Thomas can be, Jefferson does not need to be. As the primary box safety that makes plays against the run and around the line of scrimmage, he's able to help shut down the run and shallow areas of the field. … As a reliable starter that has not missed a game in his tenure as a Raven, Jefferson could make even more plays in a more defined role in 2019. Jefferson can have his best year yet."
On the offensive side of the ball, Ebony Bird's Chris Schisler thinks the Ravens could have the league's best tight end tandem in Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst, who both showed flashes of their potential last season.
Andrews played in all 16 games as a rookie and posted a franchise rookie record for tight ends with 34 catches for 552 yards and three touchdowns. Hurst was never 100 percent last year after suffering a stress foot fracture during training camp, but he is healthy now and added 20 pounds of muscle this offseason.
"The Baltimore Ravens have a chance to change the way teams in the NFL think about the tight end position. They are going to use tight ends a lot in their run-first offense," Schisler wrote. "Andrews is coming off a great rookie season. His numbers weren't huge, but he showed what kind of weapon he could be. He averaged over 16 yards per reception and made some of the most important grabs of the entire season.
"Andrews is the one who flashed the most potential, yet Hurst can't be forgotten. We're talking about a first-round pick who has all the traits a first-round pick typically has at the tight end position. Hurst is a big target, a versatile player and his hands are his strongest asset. It would be foolish to think that Hurst wouldn't get better in his second season. He will surely have the chances to shine."