J.K. Dobbins reached the end zone 23 times at Ohio State last season. He's a running back who thinks beyond first downs. He thinks touchdowns.
Devin Duvernay has a similar homerun mindset as a wide receiver, which plays into why the Ravens drafted Dobbins in the second round and Duvernay in the third. Making big plays is how the Ravens want to operate.
According to sharpfootballstats.com, the Ravens had more explosive running plays of 10 yards or more (101) than any team in the NFL last year. The next closest team, the Arizona Cardinals, had 60 big-play runs.
However, the Ravens want to increase their explosiveness next season both running and passing. When asked about his goals for 2020 during a recent video conference, Lamar Jackson said, "Whether it's running, passing, out-breaking routes and deep passes, I feel like we need to hit a lot more deep passes than we did last year."
It's not like the Ravens had a dink-and-dunk offense in 2019. They had 48 passing plays of 15 yards or more, ranking 15th among the NFL's 32 teams. However, Ravens opponents made it a priority to keep Marquise Brown from getting behind them after he torched the Miami Dolphins for touchdown catches of 83 yards and 47 yards in Week 1. Brown didn't have another 100-yard game until the playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans.
No matter how teams defend Brown next season, the Ravens want to have more big-play options in the passing game, which is where they expect Duvernay will come into play. Duvernay had touchdown catches of 75, 63, 44, 43 and 40 yards last season at Texas on his way to catching 106 passes for 1,386 yards and nine touchdowns.
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman will have the option of putting Brown on one side and Duvernay in the slot and asking defenses to pick their poison.
Meanwhile, Dobbins will add to Baltimore's ability to gash opponents with huge plays on the ground. We saw that from Mark Ingram II, who set the tone for last season with a 49-yard burst in his first run as a Raven. We saw it from Jackson, who can do a 360 when he goes the distance.
The Ravens set the team record for rushing yards in a season and did it with pizzazz. Now add Dobbins to the mix, a back with breakaway speed who runs with a low center of gravity and shows a consistent ability to break tackles.
"What I like most about him is if he's got a crease, he's gone," General Manager Eric DeCosta told “The Lounge” this week. "He's a guy that has an extra gear through the second and third levels of the defense. He can make big plays and he did that in every game this year. He's got a little bit of a game-breaker style to him."
Dobbins' stats from last season ooze with explosiveness – 2,003 yards, 21 touchdowns and 6.7 yards per carry, along with 23 catches for 247 yards and two touchdowns as a receiver. In addition to his speed, Dobbins' shiftiness sets him apart from most backs. In an interview with The Athletic before the draft, Dobbins described a run he had as a freshman while watching it on film. He talked about the process of making defenders whiff on tackles in the open field, something that Jackson does regularly.
"I work pretty hard at making the guy on the third level miss," Dobbins said. "I don't honestly practice it, but it just happens naturally. I see this guy the whole time and I just put a move on him. It's one of my favorite moves and it made this guy look silly."
The Ravens proved last season that a run-first offense doesn't have to be boring. It was explosive. Now after spending the 2019 offense rebuilding the playbook, the coaching staff is refining it and adding some big-play spice to the recipe. Possibilities are certainly spinning in Roman's head – formations that feature two speedsters like Brown and Duvernay, read-option plays with Jackson carrying the ball, with the option of pitching to Dobbins.
Baltimore led the NFL in scoring last year, but the hunger remains to push the envelope further. Jackson wants more big plays, and the Ravens now have more ways to make that happen.