Mailbag: What Will the Running Back Rotation Look Like?

(From left to right) RB J.K. Dobbins, RB Mike Davis, & RB Kenyan Drake

Mink: The Ravens have an especially deep backfield with the addition of Kenyan Drake last week. In J.K. Dobbins, Mike Davis and Drake, Baltimore has three experienced starters all under 30 years old. The division of labor largely depends on Dobbins' health. He's absolutely made strides since returning to practice on Aug. 8. Last week, Head Coach John Harbaugh said Dobbins’ quickness has returned. Still, Harbaugh hasn't made any definitive statement on whether Dobbins will play Week 1 or not.

If Dobbins does play, I imagine that the Ravens will ease him back into game action with a fairly equal division of labor between he and a No. 2 back, with maybe a few touches sprinkled in for a No. 3. It remains to be seen whether the top backup will be Davis or Drake. Davis is ranked No. 2 on the first depth chart (for whatever that's worth) and Drake is obviously still learning the offense. If Dobbins doesn't play in New York, Davis would probably get the lion's share of the reps with Drake and Justice Hill backing him up.

Overall, fans should probably expect a healthy rotation from the Ravens' back at the start of the season. Knowing how competitive Dobbins is, he'll probably push to be full-go. Maybe coaches have seen enough from him to carry a big load from the jump, but it wouldn't be surprising if they pull back the reins on their eager future superstar, especially considering their confidence in his backups.

Downing: I would be surprised if the Ravens make a splash signing at outside linebacker before the season opener. The first game is now four days away, so I would be surprised to see the Ravens add someone who could play and make an impact against the Jets. However, I also don't expect the Ravens to go into that game with just two outside linebackers on the 53-man roster. They have options in-house on the practice squad who could get called up this weekend to play in Sunday's game, and that seems like a more likely route to take.

The practice squad candidates include Steven Means and Jeremiah Moon, and they could get brought up to the active roster. Activating Means makes a lot of sense, as he's a veteran player who has seen a lot of action in his career. He started 14 games last year for Atlanta, so he'll be ready to step into a fairly significant role if needed. Moon is a talented player who flashed at times this preseason, but it would be a bigger jump for him as an undrafted rookie if he gets called up for his NFL debut.

Mink: Ronnie Stanley took a big first step in returning to game action by making his practice debut Monday. He looked good. Stanley was moving well and looked to be in great shape. Whether he looks and feels good enough to play Sunday is between he and the team doctors, but I wouldn't rule it out.

Stanley is an All-Pro player with superb technique and knowledge of the game. I don't think he needs a ton of practice reps to be a top-notch blocker. It's more just a matter of him feeling comfortable with where he's at physically because the last thing anyone wants is to go out Week 1 and then back on the shelf like last season. If Stanley feels good about his ankle and the Ravens medical staff feels like he's strong enough to play, he could play.

Downing: The Ravens have made it clear throughout the spring and summer that they want to find ways to get their talented safeties on the field. Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald experimented with three safeties a lot in practice, and I expect to see plenty of situations where Chuck Clark, Marcus Williams and Kyle Hamilton are on the field at the same time. Macdonald has made it clear since he returned to Baltimore that he wants to build the defense in a way that gets the best players on the field, and safety is certainly an area of strength for this team.

Getting three safeties on the field also meshes with the trend of today's NFL game. The NFL is a pass-heavy league, and getting those safeties on the field can help combat the passing game. The beauty of the Ravens defensive makeup is that they can still be stout against the run even if they put an extra safety on the field. Hamilton has the size to cover tight ends or to defend the run at the line of scrimmage, and the Ravens moved the rookie all over the defense in the preseason. Hamilton was the 14th-overall pick for a reason, and he's going to earn his way onto the field for significant snaps as a rookie. Macdonald is a creative coach who will find ways to get his best 11 players on the field.

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