Is J.K. Dobbins' 'Quiet Training Camp' Cause for Concern?
J.K. Dobbins has been frequently mentioned as a leading candidate for a breakout season.
NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah predicted that Dobbins could rush for 1,400 to 1,500 yards in 2021. Dobbins was even named by CBS Sports as one of five running backs who could break Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards set in 1984.
However, the second-year running back has had a "quiet training camp" in the words of The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec.
After finishing with zero yards on three carries in the preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints, Dobbins rushed for eight yards on four carries against the Carolina Panthers Saturday night. That adds up to a total of eight yards on seven carries, with six of those yards coming on one run.
So is their cause for concern about Dobbins? In a word: no.
"I've heard absolutely zero concern from anybody associated with the Ravens about Dobbins' form," Zrebiec wrote. "But you can tell how badly Dobbins wants to do well."
Indeed. Dobbins, who rushed for 805 yards and nine touchdowns and averaged a league-leading 6.0 yards per carry last year, said last week that he "is chasing perfection." While his performances in the two preseason games haven't been perfect, there are some obvious explanations.
"First and foremost, the Ravens have been shuffling their offensive line all summer due to various injuries," Ebony Bird's Justin Fried wrote. "The result has been a lackluster unit that hasn't created many holes in the running game. It's hard to make plays in open space when there's no open space to be found.
"On top of that, Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman typically runs a rather vanilla offense during training camp. The multiple, diverse offense that the Ravens run during the regular season is nowhere to be found in the summer. Dobbins' struggles are likely a direct result of each of those things."
Dobbins said this past week that the Ravens' running game as a whole will be ready come Week 1 of the regular season.
"I think we're at a good spot," Dobbins said. "We're working hard — us and the linemen — and I think when the season comes around, we'll be ready to go. We'll always be physical up front. The guys work hard, and we've got some good O-linemen, so we'll be in the right place at the right time."
One area in which Dobbins has made some noise in practice is catching the football. It's a facet of his game he's determined to show more of this season after catching 18 passes for 120 yards in 2020. He has made several highlight-reel receptions, including one yesterday and another in OTAs in June that went viral.
Lamar Jackson Ranked Among Best Quarterbacks in Several Skills Categories
ESPN's NFL analysts ranked the top 10 NFL quarterbacks entering the 2021 season in 12 distinct categories, and Lamar Jackson placed high in several areas.
Not surprisingly, Jackson, who holds the single-season rushing record for a quarterback and is the only quarterback in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in multiple seasons, was No. 1 in both scrambling and designed-run ability.
"Jackson is mesmerizing with his elusiveness and big-play speed, making NFL defenses have to defend him in a way that they haven't had to defend quarterbacks maybe ever," Louis Riddick wrote.
Field Yates wrote: "Jackson's career is just getting started, but his trajectory as a runner is obvious: He's on his way to becoming the best rushing quarterback of all time. He already ranks 13th in rushing yards just three seasons into his career and could realistically catapult all the way up to fourth by the end of this upcoming season.
"His acceleration mirrors a sports car's; he has uncanny agility, and he slithers past tackles as though defenders have butterfingers. While defensive coaches can work tirelessly all week to devise a plan to slow Jackson down, here's the reality: When it's Jackson versus a defender in open space, he comes out on top."
Jackson was ranked third in toughness.
"No quarterback was contacted on more plays than Jackson last season (180)," Seth Walder wrote. "That was actually substantially higher than the winner of this category, [Josh] Allen, who was contacted 123 times. Going back two seasons, Allen was also contacted the second-most times in 2019 — again behind Jackson."
Jackson was No. 6 in compete level and second-reaction ability. He was ranked No. 7 in pocket presence, and Tim Hasselbeck cited him as a riser to watch in that category.
"Jackson has clearly proven himself to already be one of the best in the league at avoiding pressure by escaping out of the pocket, and his mobility is unmatched," Hasselbeck wrote. "He also possesses a nice ability to throw with people around him, find throwing lanes with adjusted arm angles and create ways to get the ball out of his hand. As Baltimore explores ways to develop him as a passer from inside the pocket, there is room for growth that I would anticipate Jackson meeting."
Jackson received at least one vote in the decision-making and field vision categories, but did not make the top 10 in either. Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz and Derrik Klassen identified Jackson as the biggest snub in the latter category.
"The Ravens' Lamar Jackson may never get the credit he deserves as a processor, but few handle the quick game the way he does," Schatz and Klassen wrote. "Not only does Jackson excel with general vision and decision-making specifically to that area, but he understands defenders' leverage in such a way that helps him locate the ball away from them, which is the same thing veterans such as [Tom] Brady and (in years past) Philip Rivers get credit for."
Jackson did not crack the top 10 in arm strength, accuracy, touch or mechanics. Those passing categories is where Jackson is looking to prove people wrong this year. Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer, who was in Carolina for the joint practices, noticed better mechanics from Jackson.
Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer: Ravens' Preseason Winning Streak Is Remarkable
There's been debate over whether the Ravens' 19-game preseason winning streak actually means something or is much ado about nothing.
After the Ravens' 20-3 win over the Panthers, which tied Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers of 1959-1962 for the longest preseason streak in NFL history, Head Coach John Harbaugh said he sees value in the accomplishment.
"I mean, there are going to be people that say this doesn't mean anything, and there are going to be people who look at it and say, 'Wow, that's something,'" Harbaugh said. "So, I think everything is something. I'm of the belief that everything has meaning in life."
"The Ravens' record 19-game preseason winning [streak] is remarkable, and weird, and I honestly don't know exactly what to make of it. But I don't think it's unrelated that John Harbaugh pushes his guys pretty hard, and simulates game conditions, in practice," Breer wrote. "I'd imagine that makes it so all 90 guys on the roster, and not just the NFL-experienced ones, are ready to go when the lights turn on.
"It also makes me think of what [Jacksonville Jaguars Head Coach] Urban Meyer said to me the other day on losing his preseason opener: 'We lost our preseason game and I keep hearing, it's just a preseason game. Well, we lost. Our objective as long as they're keeping score is to win.' (Meyer and the Harbaughs clearly have their differences, but maniacal competitiveness isn't one of them)."
On a side note, Breer posted the following observations about the Ravens, including Baltimore feeling rookie first-round pick Odafe Oweh is a "legit star in the making" and safety DeShon Elliott taking a "BIG" step.
Ray Lewis Is No. 17 on List of 100 Best Players in NFL History
The Athletic is counting down the top 100 players in NFL history, and Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, perhaps the best middle linebacker of all time, came in at No. 17.
"One of the players responsible for what the franchise has become is now celebrated in bronze in front of its downtown stadium, beckoning a fan base that has embraced the organization's blue-collar and defensive-minded approach," Zrebiec wrote. "There stands Lewis, 9 feet tall and 1,200 pounds, a fitting portrayal of a player who had a larger-than-life persona. There is Lewis in all of his glory, posing, preening and prodding his teammates to follow his lead. Few NFL players are as synonymous with a franchise as Lewis is with the Ravens. More than eight years after he played his last game, that hasn't changed."
Former Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George, one of Lewis' longtime rivals said: "He could inspire not only a defense but an entire city. When you go up against a player like that, you've got to bring something substantial to the table as well. You have to prepare during the week for 60 minutes of battle, not just physically but mentally and spiritually because he could take your spirit and he'll suck it right out of the team."
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said: "He was the best linebacker I've ever played against and maybe the best defensive player I ever played against as well."
Lewis joined fellow Hall of Famers Ed Reed (No. 39) and Jonathan Ogden (No. 60) as homegrown Ravens on the list. The countdown began earlier this month and continues until the start of the regular season.