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10 Questions: Will the Running Game Be Dominant Again?

RB J.K. Dobbins
RB J.K. Dobbins

We've hit the slow time of the NFL calendar, the time when there's a whole lot more debate than news.

Thus, over the next two weeks, we will debate some of the most pressing issues facing the Ravens as they enter the 2022 season.

Will the Ravens running game be dominant again?

Baltimore followed through on the promise of a revolutionary offense in 2019, setting the NFL record for most rushing yards in a single season.

Lamar Jackson toppled the all-time mark for rushing yards by a quarterback and the Ravens' running backs rumbled along with him. Baltimore averaged a whopping 206 yards on the ground.

The Ravens followed that up with another dominant ground attack in 2020, averaging 191.9 yards per game. That was nearly 24 more rushing yards per game than the second-place team.

In 2021, the Ravens were still among the NFL's best in running the ball, but they weren't dominant. Baltimore finished third in the league at 145.8 yards per game. Much of that was because the Ravens lost their top three running backs – J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill – to season-ending injuries before the year began.

After cobbling together a veteran-laden backfield of Devonta Freeman, Latavius Murray and Le'Veon Bell, the Ravens just weren't as threatening when Jackson handed the ball off.

Any offense engineered by Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman will have success running the football. Roman is widely regarded as one of the best in the league in attacking defenses on the ground. But having the right personnel is needed to do the job at the highest level.

Much of the Ravens' return to the top of the rankings hinges on the healthy returns of Dobbins and Edwards. Their timelines are still to be determined, but Head Coach John Harbaugh said they are on schedule and that Dobbins already feels like he could be back on the field.

The Ravens expected Dobbins to have a monster 2021 campaign before his knee injury in the preseason finale. Now entering his third season, he'll be determined to get back to that point and show his star is still rising. Dobbins has bounced back before during his football career, and he's a safe bet to do it again.

Edwards is also a driven player, a former undrafted rookie who bulldozed his way into prominence in Baltimore and around the league. The Ravens inked him to a contact extension last offseason, envisioning he and Dobbins delivering a potent 1-2 punch.

If they aren't back, or at full strength, by the start of the season, the Ravens will already have better insurance than last year. Mike Davis is a proven all-around back coming off his two best seasons. At 29 years old, he doesn't have a lot of wear on his tires and practiced well so far this summer.

Hill has returned from his Achilles tear and looked fast in OTAs and minicamp. He is a dynamic talent, especially as a change-of-pace outside runner and receiving threat. Hill has also shown he can be a commodity on special teams.

The Ravens also drafted Tyler Badie in the sixth round and he flashed his potential, particularly as a receiver, during summer practices. The Missouri product, who grew up playing football just across the street from the Under Armour Performance Center, will be looking to carve out a role.

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