The Ravens still hope to establish themselves as the best running team in football this season. But after setting the NFL's all-time team record for rushing yards in 2019, Baltimore ranks third in the league in rushing, averaging 160.8 yards per game heading into Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
That's still an excellent average, but it doesn't compare to the 206.0 yards per game that Baltimore averaged on the ground last season. However, the Ravens aren't worried about making comparisons to last season. They're focused on getting better each week, and running back Mark Ingram II says he's embracing that process.
"Obviously 2019 was an historic year," Ingram said. "We had a lot of things going for us. 2020 is different, the Ravens are different. We just have to find ways to continue to improve. We have to find ways to continue to get better. We know we haven't played our best as an offense yet. We're striving to have a complete football game. We're not satisfied. The 2020 Ravens are still working on our identity and we're working to be the best possible version of ourselves."
With the addition of rookie running back J.K. Dobbins, rushing attempts are being divided among Ingram (45 carries, 205 yards), Gus Edwards (34 carries, 192 yards) and Dobbins (16 carries, 126 yards). It's been an adjustment for Ingram, who was more of a workhorse last season, but he sets the tone for the running back room by being prepared for every opportunity, regardless of how many he gets.
"As many times as they call my number, that's as many times as I'd like to run it," Ingram said. "Obviously I want the ball, obviously I want to be on the field, get into a rhythm making plays. At the same time, we have a great room, all guys that can be explosive, all guys who can make plays. We stay fresh, we stay healthy, we all try to be mentally prepared for when our number is called."
Jimmy Smith Playing Multiple Roles Very Well
Entering his 10th season with the Ravens, cornerback Jimmy Smith was excited about switching between corner and safety this year, using his versatile skill set to help the defense create favorable matchups.
It has worked out the way Smith hoped. It has been fun, and it has been effective. He has played snaps at safety, matching up against top tight ends like Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs. And he has played outside corner, allowing Marlon Humphrey or other corners to move into the slot, depending upon the matchup that Baltimore wants.
Smith loves the different challenge that it presents every week.
"It's been fun," Smith said. "I get to do different things. I've played tight ends, dropped down in coverage from safety, played some corner. Lately though, since Tavon (Young) has been down I've been playing a lot more corner. The role has kind of shifted back. I'm comfortable doing whatever they ask me to do."
Smith smiled about getting his first sack of the season against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday when Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale dialed up a blitz. Five Ravens defensive backs had a sack against Cincinnati.
"You can get that from Wink," Smith said. "He likes to send DBs. He likes to send everybody."
Head Coach John Harbaugh said Smith's versality should not be taken for granted.
"His experience makes a big difference," Harbaugh said. "He's just seen a lot of things. He's been in a lot of meetings, he's played in a lot of games. He basically, fundamentally knows how the coverages are built. He's done a really good job with it. I'm really proud of him. There are some good of examples of guys who have done it even here, all the way back to Rod Woodson and of course Brandon Carr. But I don't think it's really that normal."
Smith Sees Some Big Ben in Carson Wentz
In their many battles with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens have learned how important it is to be wary when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger extends plays after escaping the pocket. Smith says the defense will have a similar mindset defending Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.
Like Roethlisberger, Wentz is a big quarterback who is not easy to bring down, and his mobility allows him to extend plays. Wentz will make mistakes, but he will also make things happen.
"Sometimes they win those, sometimes they lose them," Smith said. "We just got to make sure that we're in the right spot if he does make a mistake. If he just throws it up and it's in our area, we've got to catch the ones that he throws to us. But also have to make sure that we're plastering, because a guy like that is a younger, faster version of Ben Roethlisberger. He can extend the play and make huge plays downfield if you're not strapped to your assignment."
Ingram Knows Stiff-Arms and Gives Nod to Derrick Henry
From one Alabama guy to another, Ingram gave respect to Titans running back Derrick Henry for his epic stiff-arm that sent Buffalo Bills cornerback Josh Norman flying Tuesday night.
Norman looked like a guy being dismissed from a nightclub by a bouncer. However, Ingram has a mean stiff arm himself, and he balked when it was suggested to him that he couldn't give a defensive back his walking papers like Henry did.
"He would not do that to me, and I can do that to somebody else," Ingram said. "I'm not jealous. He's a big dude and obviously he has a great stiff-arm. But my stiff-arm's pretty strong too. I feel like if a DB came up to me a little reckless, thinking that it was sweet, I could probably toss him out the club, too. But good job Derrick. Keep running the rock. Roll Tide for life."