Projecting the Ravens Running Back Carry and Snap Count Splits
In 2019, the Baltimore Ravens ran the ball at highest rate in the NFL (54.1%), broke the single-season team rushing record, and had three rushers in the top eight in yards per carry. So, what does a team this successful at running the ball do in the offseason? Draft one of the best running backs in college football, of course!
Baltimore selected J.K. Dobbins, considered by many to be the top running back in the class, out of Ohio State in the second round of this past April’s draft, subsequently throwing a wrench in the plans and projections of snap count and carry splits among a position group that already featured a 30-year old Pro-Bowler, a third-year vet and former undrafted free agent, and a second-year 5’10” 190-lb speedster.
“Being able to have our backfield, I think it’s an elite backfield, guys that I think can start anywhere in this league, play anywhere in this league,” Mark Ingram said. “We’ll be competing, we’ll be working together to have the best rushing attack again.”
I wanted to take a look into the future of the elite Ravens backfield, as Ingram calls it, and answer the question of where Dobbins fits in. Is Ingram still the lead back, or is it more of a split with him and the rookie? What do Gus Edwards and Justice Hill’s roles look like, this season and beyond? After looking at snap count percentages and the carry splits from last season and factoring in what I believe are the team’s long-term plans, here are my projections of what I believe the carry and snap count splits between the four running backs may look like this season.
Coming off a Pro Bowl season at 30-years-old, Ingram still has plenty left in the tank. In the former Saints running back’s first season in Baltimore, he ran his way to top-three career finishes in yards, touchdowns, and yards per rush, while also not missing a game all season long due to injury for just the fourth time in his nine-year career.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) November 26, 2019
Nonetheless, the team did draft a running back in the second round, Ingram is on the wrong side of 30, and his current contract is set to expire after the 2021 season. Ingram should still receive the most touches of any back on the roster, but the addition of Dobbins will surely decrease his 45% snap share and 202 carries as the team prepares the rookie for a featured role. Despite the rookie eating into Ingram’s touches, the veteran has been a mentor to Dobbins.
“That’s what this league is all about, especially running backs, being able to pay the game forward. I had guys pay the game forward to me. Anything he wants to know, I’m there to help him”, Ingram said of Dobbins.
2019: 45.2% of snaps per game, 202 carries, 26 catches
2020 Projection: 41% of snaps per game, 177 carries, 19 catches
The Gus Bus starred as a backup to Ingram last season, finishing with 711 yards on 5.3 yards per attempt, the third highest in the NFL and second among running backs. The former undrafted free agent out of Rutgers quickly broke on to the scene in his rookie year, leading the team in rushing in 2018 on 718 yards on 5.2 yards per attempt and starting in six games after earning a promotion from the practice squad. Heading into last season, Edwards and Ingram were set to be one of the league’s best one-two punches, and they did not disappoint.
Gus Edwards: not a dynamic runner pic.twitter.com/bM6bseBcet
— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) April 16, 2020
Edwards has responded well in his short career to the team bringing new running backs into the fold, beating out Justice Hill for the backup role last season and working well alongside Ingram. This year, however, doesn’t look as good for Edwards. Headed into the last year of his rookie contract, it’s obvious the team is more than fine with moving on from him. Edwards will give Dobbins a run for his money for the backup role in the short term, but Dobbins is clearly the future and will take most of Edwards’ work, leaving the former UDFA in a battle with Hill for the third-string spot, a position the team historically hasn’t used often.
I hope Edwards goes on to have a long and successful career, but it unfortunately won’t be in Baltimore. Don’t be shocked if he doesn’t make the final 53-man roster either, whether that be via trade or release, if the Ravens don’t want to carry four backs.
2019: 35.8% of snaps per game, 133 carries, 7 catches
2020 Projection: 12% of snaps per game, 42 carries, 5 catches
The Ravens made Hill a fourth-round pick in 2019, and coach John Harbaugh expects Hill to take “a big step forward” in his sophomore season. Coming out of Oklahoma State, his profile suggested he would be best suited for a third down, pass catching role due to his smallish 5’10” 190-lb frame, solid quickness and burst out of the backfield, and plus pass protection skills. Like last season, that will likely be the only real action the second-year running back sees for the most part, as his carry totals should also take a dip with the addition of Dobbins.
2019: 19% of snaps per game, 58 carries, 8 catches
2020 Projection: 10% of snaps per game, 29 carries, 7 catches
Dobbins was dominant in his junior (final) season at Ohio State. The Houston native rushed for 2,003 yards, good for third best in the country, on 6.7 yards per attempt while finding the end zone 21 times on the ground. The Doak Walker award finalist and first team All-Big Ten member added another 247 yards and two touchdowns through the air.
— ESPN (@espn) December 29, 2019
The former Buckeye and second-round pick is the future of the Ravens backfield. With an aging Ingram set to hit free agency following 2021 and Edwards, last year’s backup, on a cheap one-year deal, the Ravens may look to get Dobbins involved early on in his career to prepare him for a featured role down the line.
Baltimore got a steal in Round 2 pic.twitter.com/Fw6IgS0h4p
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) August 25, 2020
Even though Dobbins will do everything he can to beat out his teammates and be on the field as much as possible, he says it’s nothing but love among the position group. “Mark is going to be like an older brother to me. He’s definitely helped me; it’s been all good. He’s helping me with anything I ask. Anytime I text him, he texts back. It’s been great”, the rookie said about Ingram.
Projecting where Dobbins fits into the team’s snap counts and carry totals this season, I think it’s fair to say he’ll take over the majority of Edwards’ work from last season, and soon take over as the primary, every-down back.
2020 Projection: 37% of snaps per game, 152 carries, 26 catches