It might be hard to imagine the Ravens running the football better than they did last season.
However, it's not difficult for Mark Ingram II to imagine. Ingram won't put a limit on what Baltimore's rushing attack can accomplish in 2020. Even after Baltimore set the NFL team rushing record with 3,296 yards in 2019, breaking a 41-year-old record, Ingram thinks the Ravens can do better.
"We have a great group of guys in the running back room, we have a great offensive line, great coordinators," Ingram said. "We broke the record last year. We're trying to improve. We'll be doing everything we can to try to top that mark this year. It's going to take a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication, a lot of execution. But we're looking forward to it."
With the addition of second-round pick J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore's backfield is even deeper with Ingram, Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill. Lamar Jackson set the single season record for rushing yards by a quarterback last year, and Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman is known for his innovative running schemes.
Heading into Sunday's opener against the Cleveland Browns, there's a lot of focus on the Browns' running back tandem of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Some believe it's the best running back duo in the league.
However, Ingram doesn't believe in taking a back seat to opponents.
"There's always some battles within the battles," Ingram said. "Obviously, we want to prove we're the best running back room in the league. I always have a chip on my shoulder and a burning desire to prove I'm one of the best running backs in the league. That's something that never leaves. We respect Chubb and Hunt, the Browns and their run game. But we believe in our room."
Calais Campbell Eager for Ravens Debut
Calais Campbell is entering his 13th NFL season, but it's his first with the Ravens. That makes it different, and he's thrilled to be part of a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations. To Campbell, the coronavirus has made this offseason seem more lengthy than usual.
"I'm very excited to be back to playing football," Campbell said. "It seems like it's been so long since I've played a football game."
Campbell's ability to stuff the run as a Pro Bowl defensive lineman is one of the main reasons the Ravens traded for him. He will face his first test in Baltimore on Sunday, knowing that Chubb ran for 165 yards and three touchdowns Week 4 in Baltimore last year. Campbell expects the Browns to run often, to see if Baltimore's defense can handle it. Without the benefit of preseason games, tackling could be a little shoddy on both sides, and Chubb and Hunt can make defenders miss tackles.
"If I'm a coach, I'm going to see how a guy's tackling is going to be," Campbell said. "I'm going to run the ball at them downhill. We expect to see a lot of runs. We'll have our hands full, but I think we're ready for the challenge."
Cleveland plans to start rookie left tackle Jedrick Wills, the 10th-overall pick in the draft from Alabama. Going against a player of Campbell's caliber could unnerve Willis, especially in his first game, but Campbell isn't taken anything for granted.
"He's very gifted," Campbell said. "They feel very confident about him. He's a talented guy. I hope that my experience pays dividends going into this first game."
Loss to Cleveland Not Forgotten, But Not Dwelled On
When you go 14-2 like the Ravens did last season, the defeats stand out. Baltimore suffered its only home loss of the 2019 regular season against Cleveland last year, losing 40-25 in Week 4. After that, Baltimore closed the regular season with 12 straight wins, including a victory over the Browns in Cleveland.
If the Ravens want to use last year's loss to Cleveland for extra incentive, they can. But the Ravens already view Cleveland as a formidable opponent.
"The Browns came in and dominated the football game," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "They ran the ball on us. They stopped the run. They played a great football game, they beat us handily. We're certainly aware of that. You always remember those things. I don't want to put it in the category of revenge or anything like that. We're moving forward, but we understand how good they are, how talented they are.
"It's a rivalry game. We've had many knockdown, drag-out football brawls with this team, with this organization. We know what's at stake. It's an AFC North game. We know what kind of game those games generally are."
Postgame Socializing Will Be Limited
Here's another way the coronavirus will impact behavior this season. Players won't be mingling around the field after the game as much as they once did.
We are used to seeing jersey swaps and players chatting up friends and former teammates once the game ends. Campbell said the postgame vibe will be different.
"I think they're going to limit our interaction as much as possible, so it will definitely be different," Campbell said. "Not to where it will affect our game. After the game, you're not supposed to do our post-game handshakes, no trading jerseys and stuff like that. It's just another thing to adjust to. Part of playing the game of football is being mentally tough enough to adjust to whatever circumstances. We've already had so many adjustments. Those are minor compared to all the other things."
Step inside the Ravens' Wednesday practice as they prepare to take on the Cleveland Browns.