The return of running back JK Dobbins could be the key to rejuvenating the rushing attack for the Baltimore Ravens.
J.K. Dobbins was one of the most exciting running backs entering the 2021 season. After rushing for 800 yards on only 134 carries as a rookie, fans were excited to see what he could do in a more prominent role. Given Baltimore’s run-oriented offense and the flashes of high-level play he showed in 2020, this optimism seemed warranted.
Unfortunately, Dobbins’ 2021 season ended before it could start. He tore his ACL in Baltimore’s final preseason game and was the first of several key Ravens to miss significant time due to injury. While Dobbins’ 2021 season didn’t go as expected, everything is in place for Dobbins to hit the ground running in his return to action.
Although J.K. Dobbins was used in a committee in 2020, he did everything he needed to show the Baltimore Ravens he could be a workhorse back. As a pure rusher, Dobbins is the complete package. He has the vision and physicality to run between the tackles and the burst and speed to break off big runs. This skill set translated to a 6.0 yards per carry, which was the most of any running back with at least 100 carries.
With Dobbins and Gus Edwards Jr. missing the entire season, the Ravens brought in several veteran running backs, such as Devonta Freeman, Latavius Murray, and even Le’Veon Bell. But the attack wasn’t nearly as effective and put Baltimore in more passing situations. This, on top of the crushing injuries, caused Baltimore to go 8-9 and miss the playoffs.
In 2022, expect the Baltimore Ravens to go back to what they know. There are few teams in football that can run the ball as well as Baltimore does fully healthy, and that starts with J.K. Dobbins. Ever since Ray Rice was let go, the Ravens have relied on a group of running backs rather than just one. But much of that has been because guys like Terrance West and Alex Collins couldn’t flourish as the featured back.
In his limited NFL action and time at Ohio State, Dobbins exhibited high-end starter traits. This could cause him to take on a different role in Baltimore’s offense than the aforementioned backs. If Dobbins can operate on a higher volume in such a run-friendly offense, there is nothing stopping him from being amongst the league’s rushing leaders.
2021 was a rough year for the Baltimore Ravens, but the fact they were able to go 8-9 despite the barrage of injuries they encountered leaves reasons to be bullish on the team’s overall outlook. A healthier team to go with a very strong draft haul should put the Ravens in the thick of the AFC race.
Betting on a running back coming off an ACL tear might seem a bit dicey, but this buy-low opportunity on a talent like Dobbins is simply too much to pass up. The rushing talent combined with the situation and scheme, and it’s hard to think of a running back more poised to breakout than Dobbins.