When J.K. Dobbins runs the football, he must process things quickly. The rookie running back is taking that approach to Ravens training camp.
The entire 2020 rookie class faces the difficult challenge of entering camp without the benefit of organized offseason workouts that were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many believe it will be more difficult for this year's rookies to make an immediate impact.
However, Dobbins is not looking for excuses. He's looking for playing time. After rushing for 2,003 yards and 21 touchdowns at Ohio State last season, the second-round pick feels he can have an impactful rookie season.
"I honestly feel if you dig in, learn from the vets, study your playbook, and watch the film and get ready for the games, you can have a lot of success," Dobbins said. "Now us rookies, we don't have as much time as rookies from the past did. But that means we need to lock in."
The Ravens may count heavily on several rookies this year, particularly inside linebackers Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison, who could both be starters. Last month, Harbaugh said Queen, the team's first-round pick, will probably be "right there in the middle" of the Ravens defense.
"Let him use his speed and instincts to run around and make plays in all three phases, be a three-down guy both in our base package and our sub package," Harbaugh said.
Two rookie offensive linemen, Tyre Phillips and Ben Bredeson, are expected to compete with D.J. Fluker, Ben Powers and Patrick Mekari for the starting right guard spot vacated by the retirement of Marshal Yanda. Rookie wide receivers Devin Duvernay and James Proche will have an opportunity to become new playmakers for quarterback Lamar Jackson.
And even though the Ravens return a stacked running backs room that helped break a 41-year rushing record last year, don't overlook Dobbins, who has a history of making a strong first impression. He is the only Ohio State running back to rush for over 1,000 yards as a freshman, becoming an explosive weapon for the Buckeyes faster than most people expected.
The Ravens are extremely deep at running back and Dobbins will have to earn his role. Mark Ingram II made the Pro Bowl for the third time last season after rushing for 1,108 yards. Powerful running back Gus Edwards has averaged 5.3 yards per carry during his first two seasons. Justice Hill is the fastest back on the roster and scored two touchdowns as a rookie, and he will be looking for more playing time in his second season.
However, Dobbins has worked diligently to learn the playbook and he enjoyed the virtual learning sessions that were conducted by the Ravens coach staff. The sessions included games and quizzes to keep things interesting and test the rookies' retention.
During meetings and telephone conversations, Dobbins has also asked veteran players for advice, trying to accelerate the learning process. Dobbins sees similarities between being a rookie for the Ravens and being an incoming freshman at Ohio State.
"When I went there as a freshman, there were running backs in front of me and no guarantees I would play," Dobbins said. "I kept my head down and worked hard. The main thing was to compete, to show I can play. I'm going to do the same thing here."
The Ravens ran the ball more than any NFL team last season and Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman will be looking for more ways to diversify the attack. All four running backs have a unique style, and Dobbins loves the way Roman's system looks on tape.
"You've got Lamar who's a mobile quarterback, and you've got plenty of different looks," Dobbins said. "For running backs, in some ways I think it's an easier adjustment. For an offensive lineman who didn't go to a big school, it's a huge adjustment facing a pass rusher like Von Miller or defensive lineman like Aaron Donald. And they've got to learn the scheme. I think for a running back, it might be a little less complex. You need to learn, but you also rely on your athleticism as a back."
Dobbins spent most of his offseason training in the Miami area and does not believe the restrictions created by the coronavirus have hurt his conditioning. He added another element to his offseason training, running on the sand in South Florida. Dobbins believes his legs are stronger and he is eager to get on the field.
"I did everything I need to get ready," Dobbins said. "This rookie class has a job to do. I can't wait to get started."