The Ravens were forced into a decision that they didn’t want to make. In 2018, Joe Flacco was injured against the Steelers. That forced the Ravens to put Lamar Jackson in at quarterback. This was a monumental shift. The Ravens went from throwing forty times a game to running forty times a game. Jackson dominated in the running game and turned the Ravens season around. He brought the Ravens to the playoffs, but he was shut down in the playoffs by the Chargers. The Chargers played lighter and faster defensive backs and that prevented Jackson from going outside and working his magic in the run game. To counter the threat of a faster defense, Ravens general manager, Eric DeCosta, brought in Mark Ingram. Ingram was a bruising running back and lighter defenses wouldn’t be able to tackle him before he got chunk yardage.
The move worked. Ingram led the Ravens in running back snaps, rushing attempts, rushing touchdowns, total touchdowns, and broken tackles. He was a key part in a Ravens offense that set the all-time record for the most rushing yards in a season. Ingram wasn’t the only piece in that rushing attack. Lamar Jackson, who won the 2019 MVP award, ran for over 1200 yards breaking records on the way. Gus Edwards and Justice HIll also contributed to the cause combining for just under 1000 yards. The Ravens won their last 12 regular-season games and flew into the playoffs as the top seed in the league. But, Ingram was banged up. He played in the playoffs against the Titans, but he was playing injured and it was noticeable. The Ravens lost that game for a variety of reasons but they knew that having a 30-year-old running back was far from ideal. Yet, they weren’t planning on making a change. It had worked in 2019 and there weren’t many reasons to think that Ingram would regress in 2020.
On draft day, the Ravens were faced with a golden opportunity and a tough decision. With the 55th pick in the draft, the Ravens had the option to draft J.K. Dobbins, an electric runner out of Ohio State. Dobbins was a speedster who should have been drafted well before the 55th pick but somehow fell down the board. Eric DeCosta chose to draft Dobbins. Dobbins joined what was already the best rushing attack in the league. But the Ravens had an issue. How would they use all of their talented running backs?
In 2020, they started off their season with a roughly equal workload for Ingram, Edwards, and Dobbins; with Ingram getting the most snaps. But as the season progressed it became more and more apparent that Dobbins was having the most success of any of the running backs. But the Ravens still utilized Ingram more than Dobbins and Edwards despite Ingram putting up worse numbers. This changed in week 14. Ingram was given one snap. After that, he was inactive for the rest of the season and playoffs. Dobbins became the featured back with Edwards complimenting him in the running game to provide a lethal attack which revitalized the Ravens offense.
The Ravens had to make some tough decisions about their running back room. They chose to cut Mark Ingram. Ingram was still producing at a high level but it wasn't good enough for the best rushing attack in the league. A tough part about cutting Ingram was his leadership. He was one of the main leaders of the Ravens, and he was loved by teammates and fans. Surprisingly, the Ravens released a statement about cutting Ingram. They never do that after cutting players but they did it for Ingram because of how much he means to Baltimore.
The Ravens are facing another tough decision at running back. Edwards is a free agent and the Ravens will have to decide if it's worth it to bring him back, how much they can afford to pay him, and how difficult will it be to replace him
Regardless of what the Ravens choose, the Ravens will still have the best rushing attack in 2021. But the evolution of how the Ravens run the ball and with who they run the ball will continue to change.
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