Daniel Jeremiah: 'Buy All the J.K. Dobbins Stock'
Earlier this season, Pro Football Focus saw Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins as a mid-tier tailback in the NFL. But after NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah saw him in person during yesterday's padded practice, he believes Dobbins could dominate in 2021.
Jeremiah predicted that Dobbins could post 1,400 to 1,500 yards this season.
"I loved [Dobbins] coming through the draft process," Jeremiah told Good Morning Football's Kyle Brandt. "You could not hand pick a better spot for him than here in Baltimore.
"They're going to run the heck out of the football. He's got tremendous balance and instincts. He's a tough, finishing runner that the Ravens have always coveted and you saw what he could do down the stretch when he kind of took over that position and you saw the reps go his way. The way he was able to produce, I think he could have a monster season."
Dobbins rushed for 805 yards and nine touchdowns his rookie season. He did so as the No. 3 running back behind Mark Ingram II and Gus Edwards for the first part of the year, while also competing for carries against his quarterback, Lamar Jackson.
Now, Ingram is with the Houston Texans and everything is lining up for Dobbins. Edwards and Jackson will still get their fair share of carries, but Dobbins will undoubtedly have a bigger workload. NFL.com's Maurice Jones-Drew places Dobbins among his list of Year 2 breakout running backs.
Dobbins rushed for a touchdown in seven straight games last season, the second-longest streak by a rookie since 1970. The only man he trailed was Jones-Drew himself, who had eight in 2006.
"After learning the ropes from veteran Mark Ingram, Dobbins is ready to become Baltimore's clear-cut starter at the running back position," Jones-Drew wrote. "Of course, Lamar Jackson will get his touches – as will Gus Edwards – but the second-year back should be featured in an offense that's ranked first in rushing in each of the last two seasons.
"With Baltimore retooling its offensive line and adding more weapons in the pass game to help stretch the field, I'm excited to see how Dobbins is utilized in Greg Roman's offense. He can run between the tackles, catch the ball out of the backfield and, as mentioned, has a knack for getting in the end zone. Get ready for a big season from the Ravens' RB1."
While some see Dobbins as "merely" a breakout star, CBS Sports Bryan DeArdo took it a step further. He has Dobbins as a player capable of breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record in 2021. Now that would be a monster season.
"How many yards Dobbins gains in 2021 will largely depend on how much the Ravens spread the wealth between him, quarterback Lamar Jackson and fellow running back Gus Edwards," DeArdo wrote. "Dobbins will also be running behind an offensive line that lost Pro Bowler tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and center Matt Skura during the offseason. Proven newcomers Alejandro Villanueva and Kevin Zeitler will look to keep Dobbins and the rest of the Ravens' running game rolling in 2021."
While it would take a few stars to align for anybody to break the single-season rushing record, the Ravens have been the NFL's No. 1 rushing team for the past two seasons and broke the all-time record for rushing yards in a single season in 2019. Maybe Baltimore is the perfect location for a running back to have a record-setting season.
Ravens Offense Drops in Recent Ranking
The Ravens have invested a lot into improving their offense this season, yet, somehow, The Athletic's Sheil Kapadia dropped the Ravens in his ranking of all 32 teams' offenses.
"At times last season, it felt like the Ravens' offense was a complete disaster incapable of picking up a first down, let alone scoring a touchdown," Kapadia wrote. "But zooming out, they were slightly above-average statistically.[period] A big reason for that was the run game, which ranked third in efficiency and figures to stay in that range as long as Lamar Jackson is the quarterback.
"[add]The Ravens shuffled their offensive line, trading Orlando Brown Jr. and signing guard Kevin Zeitler and right tackle Alejandro Villanueva. To make a Super Bowl run, the Ravens need more consistency from their passing game, which ranked 17th in efficiency. They signed Sammy Watkins and drafted Rashod Bateman in the first round."
The question seems to be whether the additions of wide receivers Sammy Watkins, Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace, along with offensive linemen Kevin Zeitler, Alejandro Villanueva and Ben Cleveland, outweigh the losses of offensive lineman Orlando Brown Jr. and wideouts Willie Snead IV, Dez Bryant and Chris Moore.
I'll let you be the judge.
Andrews Hawkins: Rashod Bateman Will Make Biggest Impact of All Rookie WRs
Former Bengals and Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins is certainly a believer in what Bateman will bring to Baltimore. Hawkins said Bateman will make the biggest impact of any of the top wide receivers taken in this year's draft.
Bateman was drafted 27th overall, the fourth wide receiver off the board.
"I'm going with Rashod Bateman for what he is going to bring to the Baltimore Ravens," Hawkins said. "They have been longing for that threat outside the numbers, understanding that Lamar Jackson loves to work the middle of the field with the tight ends, with Hollywood Brown, with the running game.
"What he is going to bring to the table for them is much needed. He has been the source of a bunch of big catches throughout training camp. He is a smart player. He is fast, he is big, he is physical. Honestly, he's probably further along as his development as an NFL wide receiver than most of the young guys because he can run routes, he can get out of breaks, he has body positioning. I expect him to have a huge season."
Ravens and Browns are Frontrunners for AFC North Crown
The arms race in the AFC North appears to be on the crest of a wave.
In 2021, the Browns have spent the most money of any team on offense, totaling $142 million. The Ravens have spent $99.9 million on defense, good for No. 7 in the NFL.
Both teams got their franchise quarterback in 2018. They've also hit on their recent drafts, allowing them to truly max out their value and spending for such a season as this. With that in mind, Good Morning Football sees the AFC North as mostly a two-horse race, with Nate Burleson giving the edge to the Ravens.
"I love what [Daniel Jeremiah] was saying about Lamar Jackson. We understand just how good Lamar has been. If you don't know, you're about to find out," Burleson said. "Since he became the starter, the offense has been fantastic, and it's heavily based on the run game. They are first in rushing yards and also points per game. I know you're going to sit there and point at the pass yards per game which they are last in—and pass play percentage, which they are last in, but this isn't what their offense is based around. When you do something well and teams can't stop you, you continue to do that. But what [Jeremiah] is saying though is what I really liked. It's that they are working on the pass game and they're improving that, collectively."
Not everybody agreed on the Ravens being the frontrunners as Kyle Brandt went with the Browns.
"And yet to answer the question, I have to give a tiny, slight tip of the hat to Cleveland," Brandt said. "I have this sensation that Cleveland is on the way up. They are the next big thing. Based in part to the roster. Based in part to [Browns Head Coach Kevin] Stefanski. I wonder if Baltimore can make that jump. We've seen some great from the Ravens, from Lamar. I just feel like Cleveland is on the way up a little bit more than they are. I love what they have going. You talked about, 'Can they do the run, can they do the pass?'—in Baltimore. Cleveland can already. Cleveland's ready, baby, and their defense is stacked now."
Both teams on paper appear ready for a championship run, and Browns Digest’s Pete Smith thinks the Ravens are on the cusp of something unstoppable.
"But everything they want to be on offense depends on how consistent Jackson can be as a passer," Smith wrote. "If he can become consistent throwing the ball, he's unstoppable. To this point, that has not happened, so it still leaves them feeling like they aren't done yet."
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan*: 'Lamar's Gotta Get Vaccinated'*
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan spoke with WBAL Tuesday and called on Jackson to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
"Lamar's gotta get (vaccinated)," Hogan said. "With the rules the NFL put down, I can't imagine a team wanting to forfeit a game or lose a chance at the playoffs and none of the players getting paid because someone won't get a vaccine."
This discussion regarding players getting the vaccine has been league-wide, but no player more prominent than Jackson, who has now landed on the COVID-19 list twice.
The Ravens aren't the only team to have their starting quarterback miss training camp time due to COVID-19 issues,[add] as the Minnesota Vikings were down to a single quarterback on Saturday due to contact tracing of a positive test sidelining three quarterbacks, including Kirk Cousins. This led to Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer to sound off on the absences and his reaction if a star player would miss time due to COVID-19 issues.
"Probably won't be happy we lost the game, first, and I probably won't be happy we could've prevented this," Zimmer said. "Like I said, these guys, some of them just won't do it. I shouldn't say it, but some of the things they read is just, whew, out there. It's their beliefs, so. I don't know if it's misinformation. It's their belief, so whatever they've heard or read or been told. Not from – maybe they don't believe what [NFL chief medical officer] Dr. [Allen] Sills and the NFL is telling them either, so."
NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported yesterday that NFL is at a 90% vaccination rate for players overall.