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News & Notes: 'We've Got to Keep Improving' Run Game

RB Kenyan Drake
RB Kenyan Drake

The Ravens had just 63 yards rushing against the Jets in Week 1, including 11 yards in the first half.

It's just a one-game sample, but the Ravens expect to be more effective running the football, even without J.K. Dobbins (knee) who was inactive. The Jets crowded the line of scrimmage and tried to eliminate running lanes, but Head Coach John Harbaugh wants more production on the ground.

"The run game got better as the game went on," Harbaugh said. "We've got to keep improving that. They were very determined to stop the run and the RPO's. You could see on first and second down, that was their plan to try to take those away. At times they did a really good job. Especially in the first half."

Newly acquired running back Kenyan Drake (11 carries, 31 yards) provided a spark in the second half and handled the bulk of the touches while Mike Davis (11 yards) and Justice Hill (4 yards) each had just two carries. The distribution of carries will likely vary from week to week, but Harbaugh liked what he saw from Drake in his Ravens debut.

"He's still learning the offense in terms of the eyes, assignments, formations, where to line up, routes to run, protections," Harbaugh said. "There's carryover but it's not the same from team to team. It got better as the game went on, got a little more confident. He's a veteran back, knows how to run the ball. Still young enough to have a lot of juice. Same with Mike. I thought Justice did a nice job, too."

An improved rushing attack would also make Baltimore's play action passing game more effective. Lamar Jackson's 55-yard touchdown pass to Rashod Bateman came after Jackson faked a handoff to Drake and rolled right, giving Bateman time to streak down the center of the field.

"Play action's going to be a big part of what we do, and we can execute that so much better," Harbaugh said. "We can sell it better, make it more believable. If you're going to be a running team, you going to want to be a play-action team, too. Play action is important. It's one of the most efficiently successful plays in the NFL. It's something we should be good at. We want to keep using it."

Patrick Mekari Shows Why His Versatility Is Such a Valuable Commodity

When Ja'Wuan James was lost to a season-ending Achilles injury late in the second quarter Sunday, it was no surprise to see Patrick Mekari step in and play effectively at left tackle. Mekari is Baltimore's super-sub on the offensive line, capable of playing all five positions. On Mekari's first snap, Jackson and Devin Duvernay connected for a 25-yard touchdown pass.

Until All-Pro Ronnie Stanley (ankle) is ready to return, Mekari figures to be the guy at left tackle. And if the Ravens need him elsewhere down the road, Harbaugh knows he can count on Mekari.

"I talked to him after the game, I always appreciate that," Harbaugh said. "He plays all the positions. You never really know where he's going to be called on to play. That's why he's so valuable. He played very well."

Harbaugh did not rule out the possibility of Baltimore signing another offensive lineman.

"I think that's a conversation right now to see where we're at with all the moving parts there," Harbaugh said. "We'll continue to talk about those things."

Harbaugh Details Why Nick Boyle Was Inactive

Mark Andrews, Isaiah Likely and Josh Oliver were the three tight ends active Week 1, while veteran Nick Boyle was inactive. Boyle put himself through a grueling offseason regimen to improve his mobility after his serious knee injury in 2020. The Ravens have one of the NFL's deepest tight end groups, which contributes to making game day inactives a difficult decision for the coaching staff.

"We're just trying to put the best guys out there based on all the factors," Harbaugh said. "Nick's got the factors with the knees and the ankles and things like that, kind of getting back into the swing of things. We've got Josh, we've got a number of guys who are completely healthy. That's going to be week-to-week really with different players. Nick's doing a really good job. He's chomping at the bit to play. I'm pretty sure you'll se him out there sometime soon."

First Game for Isaiah Likely Is a Learning Experience

In his regular season debut, Isaiah Likely was targeted for times but is still looking for his first NFL reception. Likely didn't haul in a couple of grabs that were catchable, but Harbaugh was more perturbed by a holding penalty called on Likely, which was also an issue for him during the preseason.

"He did some good things. But we can't have a holding call on the perimeter; it happened in the preseason two or three times, and now it comes up this game," Harbaugh said. "No, that's not cool; that's not alright. Why does it happen? Because your footwork, your angle and your target are wrong. But we had a veteran guy, another guy, [who] had one of those on the perimeter, as well. Those are very costly.

"That takes away big runs. That's just fundamentals. That's being on the right angle and being on the right target. That's the one I'm not going to be as nice to him about. Some of the other stuff, listen man, you can go make those catches. Yes, they weren't perfectly thrown, because the quarterback is getting you the ball, but he's also trusting you to make those catches. You can make them; you make them every day in practice."

Likely played 45 percent of the offensive snaps (25) and pairing him with Andrews creates difficult matchups for defensive backs. Harbaugh said it's an advantage that Baltimore wants to exploit.

"Those guys are going to be on the field as much as we can put them out there," Harbaugh said. "They're also receivers, they're just bigger receivers. They're good blockers, too. That's good for us."

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