Reactions to J.K. Dobbins Season-Ending Injury
Worst-case scenario. Those are the words describing a weekend in which the Ravens set an NFL record with 20-straight preseason wins. A five-touchdown affair delivered by backup quarterback Tyler Huntley is overshadowed in the eyes of the media as running back J.K. Dobbins suffered a reported season-ending ACL injury.
When it happened, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote how things were finally trending upward before such a harsh reminder of football's ugly side.
"Just as you started to imagine the possibilities and forget about a training camp and preseason where bad news on offense has been omnipresent, you were jolted back to reality," Zrebiec wrote.
Press Box's Bo Smolka believes this is "potentially a monumental loss for the Ravens."
Yes, there are talented running backs waiting in the wings behind Dobbins, but the sophomore back out of Ohio State was set to dominate in Year 2. NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah had him going for 1,400 yards rushing or more. Bryan DeArdo of CBS Sports even labeled him as a player worthy enough to break the single-season rushing record in 2021.
NBC Sports' Peter King also called it the Ravens' worst-case scenario. He wrote that the Ravens "had a blueprint to use J.K. Dobbins a ton in 2021."
"It's likely no contending team suffered a bigger injury in August than the Ravens did in losing Dobbins for the year," King wrote.
"There will be time to consider everything else with this story, particularly what erasing a potential hugely productive season will do for a back scheduled to earn $870,000 in the second year of a four-year second-round deal. But a bright prospect with a starry season ahead of him on a likely playoff team is done in August, and it stinks. Just another reminder how unforgiving the NFL can be."
Will Ravens Add Another Running Back?
Zrebiec wrote that DeCosta walked off the field with Head Coach John Harbaugh at halftime of Saturday's game, following Dobbins' injury.
The Ravens are 14 days from their Week 1 matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders and need to decide how the running game will be moving forward.
Fortunately, they were prepared by signing running back Gus Edwards to a multi-year extension back in June. ESPN's Jamison Hensley noted how the Ravens learned a lesson from losing a star running back to injury 20 years ago.
"Dobbins' injury served as a painful reminder that this is the Ravens' 20th anniversary of [Jamal] Lewis tearing the ACL in his left knee in training camp, which derailed the defending Super Bowl champions' chances of repeating before the season began," Hensley wrote. "Baltimore didn't have a proven backup behind Lewis after allowing Priest Holmes to leave in free agency. The Ravens eventually paired an aging Terry Allen with a raw Jason Brookins, and it was a tough lesson that team officials have never forgotten."
This time around, the Ravens hung onto their originally undrafted free agent turned budding star in Edwards. There is rock-solid confidence in him as the new starter for the Ravens backfield, beginning with Hensley's take.
"Edwards, 26, is a punishing, straight-ahead runner who trimmed down this summer and looks faster than he ever has," Hensley wrote. "He rarely gets stopped behind the line, which is one reason why he has received the fifth-best rushing grade (90.2) by Pro Football Focus since 2018. It's realistic to project Edwards to run between 1,100 and 1,200 yards and total close to double-digit touchdowns."
Ravenswire's Kevin Oestreicher believes Edwards can deliver.
"Edwards is a well-rounded runner who has improved in each of his first three seasons at the NFL level," Oestreicher wrote. "Widely regarded as a pure north-south runner out of the Rutgers University, he has added a plethora of different things to his skill set, including cut back ability, improved vision, receiving skills and much more."
While Edwards has garnered the spotlight this offseason, many pundits believe running back Ty'Son Williams is the new favorite to be Edwards' backup. WNST's Luke Jones noted Williams' absence following Dobbins' injury.
"With everything about this offense augmented by Jackson's dynamic threat to run, Ty'Son Williams looks the part of someone who can contribute out of the backfield in the absence of Dobbins," Jones wrote. "Baltimore clearly agreed by not giving him any touches beyond the midway point of the second quarter."
"The Ravens will still be able to run the football because they have Jackson at quarterback and Greg Roman as offensive coordinator," Zrebiec wrote. "Roman's offenses have run the ball and run it well everywhere he's been. Edwards is a starting-caliber running back and his downhill style is a great fit in this Ravens' offense. The Ravens look like they found something in former undrafted free agent Ty'Son Williams, who gained 42 yards in the first half Saturday night before he was smartly put on ice. It now looks like Justice Hill will stick around and even have a role on offense."
Baltimore Beatdown's Jake Louque sees some likeness between the running styles of Williams and Dobbins.
"The main similarity is that [Williams] should see plenty of handoffs out of the shotgun, just as he did in college," Louque wrote. "Dobbins led the NFL in shotgun carry rate (No. 1 with 93.28%) where he had 6.7 yards per carry. Williams' combo of patience and violence suits him well to take up that mantle."
But will Baltimore still add another veteran? Fans are tossing out the name of every free-agent running back, and even some on other teams.
"It left GM Eric DeCosta perusing the running-back market (Houston's Phillip Lindsay? Indy's Nyheim Hines?) or thinking the Ravens can survive with roster-depth powerback Gus Edwards and youngsters Ty'Son Williams and Justice Hill," King wrote. "The Ravens were deep in personnel meetings Sunday trying to figure it all out. And DeCosta, the wearer of ANALYZE MORE NEVER GUESS, was likely leaning in part on his burgeoning analytics team to help him decide. My guess: Baltimore will stand pat, because of its faith in Edwards, and because Williams has opened eyes throughout camp."
More Details on How Justin Houston Landed in Baltimore
While Peter King was at Ravens training camp last week, he marveled at how Baltimore reloads every single year an "always seem to figure it out. They're never bad."
"Every year I've been at Ravens' camp, the drill is similar. I look out on the field and see two or three vet free-agents, or vets acquired in trade, dropped out of the sky onto a contending team," King wrote. "This year, there are four newbies: right tackle Alejandro Villanueva, right guard Kevin Zeitler, wide receiver Sammy Watkins and pass-rusher Justin Houston. As a class, that's a pretty impressive foursome."
King took particular note of Houston, who came to Baltimore after training camp had already started and is already becoming a leader, taking the young outside linebackers under his wing. First-round pick Odafe Oweh called him "Yoda."
King shed new light on how much Houston wanted to come to Baltimore, even though the process took a while to play out.
"Houston's agent, Joel Segal, called DeCosta a couple of times after Houston's time in Indianapolis ended last winter," King wrote. "DeCosta told Segal the Ravens just didn't have the cap money to go after Houston. Make an offer, Segal said. I don't want to insult a guy who will be a Hall of Fame candidate one day, DeCosta said. Meanwhile, cornerback Marcus Peters, one of Houston's good friends, texted DeCosta in all-caps one day: JUSTIN HOUSTON. Finally, DeCosta told Segal he'd make an offer. One year, $2 million. DeCosta felt almost embarrassed, and for a player coming off a two-year, $18-million deal in Indy, the offer was a major comedown. Houston settled for a year and $2.075 million. He just wanted to play for the Ravens.
"That's one benefit for Harbaugh and this team: Even when the money's relatively low, vets with something left still want to come."