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Ravens Confident Running Backs Will Step Up

Baltimore Ravens running back Justice Hill (43) runs the ball and breaks a tackle from Seattle Seahawks linebacker Jon Rhattigan (59) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023, in Baltimore.
Baltimore Ravens running back Justice Hill (43) runs the ball and breaks a tackle from Seattle Seahawks linebacker Jon Rhattigan (59) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023, in Baltimore.

The loss of Keaton Mitchell is a tough blow for the Ravens offense, but they were one of the league's best rushing units before Mitchell's emergence and they plan on being one of the best now without him.

"It'll be our offense with the guys we have," Harbaugh said. "The plays that [Mitchell] was running, the other guys can run. Everybody puts their own fingerprint on the play."

Justice Hill is averaging a healthy 4.4 yards per carry this season and Gus Edwards' 11 rushing touchdowns are tied for the fourth-most in the league.

"I've got confidence. I've improved in every area," Hill said. "I'm not looking at things any differently. I'm just looking at it as another opportunity to show what I can do, and I just want to make the most of it. It's a primetime stage, big game. I'm excited for it."

Hill ran well in Jacksonville after Mitchell was sidelined, and he's shown his explosion all year. His touches are probably impacted the most by Mitchell's absence considering he's a similar style of runner with speed to challenge defense's edges.

Ravens Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken also expressed his confidence in veteran running back Melvin Gordon III, who was brought up from the practice squad this week. Gordon had 13 carries for 53 yards in two games played earlier this season and showed he still has juice left with a 22-yard run in Cleveland.

"First of all, he's made plays for us" Monken said. "Over his career, he's made plays. He's been a powerful, downhill runner. He does show flashes in the pass game.

"So we're excited. Last time I was in the NFL [in 2019], a guy like Melvin Gordon, you couldn't have on practice squad. Who knows where we'd be. That's one of the advantages of whenever that rule came into play when you can have some experienced veteran guys on practice squad be able to step in and be able to help you win games."

Daniel Faalele Taking Advantage of Opportunity

Daniel Faalele saw his most extensive action of the season against Jacksonville in Week 15, playing 48% of the snaps at right tackle while sharing time with veteran starter Morgan Moses.

Faalele was the team's highest-graded offensive lineman according to Pro Football Focus (71.9) and earned praised fromHarbaugh, who said the second-year offensive lineman "took it to another level." For Faalele, it affirmed that his diligence is paying off as he develops.

"It feels good to get that recognition, good for your confidence," Faalele said. "I've been working hard in practice, working on my craft. During the game I'm staying warm on the sideline and staying engaged in the game plan so if we make any adjustments, I'm ready when I go in."

The Ravens also rotated at left tackle with Ronnie Stanley and Patrick Mekari sharing snaps against Jacksonville, and it remains to be seen if the tackle rotations will continue Monday night against the 49ers. Stanley and Moses have been dealing with injuries most of the season, and San Francisco has one of the league's top defensive lines featuring Nick Bosa (10.5 sacks).

San Francisco's defensive front is a test for any offensive line, but Faalele said his preparation remains the same regardless of the opponent. He has learned plenty in his two NFL seasons from Moses, who will play in his 150th career game on Sunday.

"We talk every day about what we can do better, and what we see on film," Faalele said. "Morgan has a lot more experience than me so it's great feeding off him and getting things from him that I can apply in my own game. Mo and Ronnie are great vets who've taught me how to prepare and how to practice."

Fourth-Down Efficiency Is a Target Area for Improvement

The Ravens rankNo.21in the NFL in fourth down conversions (45.45%), an area that Monken would like to improve on. Baltimore figures to face some crucial fourth-down situations in the coming weeks and converting more consistently will be a point of emphasis.

"As it becomes competitive and gets close and there's more on the line, you're going to have to be able to go for it on fourth down to keep the football," Monken said. "Whether it's fourth and inches, a yard, two yards, three yards."

Converting more consistently will also allow the coaching staff to think more aggressively when deciding to go for it.

"We're all a part of that," Monken said. "'How'd it feel? How do you like the plan? Where are we at? What do you guys think?' Coach [Harbaugh] is always in communication with us. But for sure, that is a huge point."

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