The days of Gus Edwards being labeled as just a big, bruising back that the team ran up the middle to chew clock at the end of blowouts is over. In recent weeks, he’s completely reinvented his game.
“He can do it all now,” Lamar Jackson said postgame when asked about Edwards.
New this year to Edwards’ tool kit is the ability to make sharp and precise cuts and jumps to the outside of the defense, and then use his speed to beat defenders to the sideline or pylon. He’s even become a threat in the passing game.
What. Just. Happened.
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) December 27, 2020
As much love as J.K. Dobbins has (rightfully) received this season, Edwards has been rock solid right behind him and they’ve become one of the league’s best duos at the position.
The guys up front led the way to an astounding 240 yards on the ground and a 6.2 yards per carry mark while allowing no sacks and giving Jackson plenty of time on his dropbacks.
D.J. Fluker has come along in recent weeks, Ben Powers to his left has taken the right guard job and ran with it, Patrick Mekari is playing like an above-average center, Orlando Brown Jr. was announced as a Pro-Bowler for the second time in his career last week, and Bradley Bozeman has been a sure thing next to Brown and showed off his ability to pull several times this week.
The offensive turnaround in the last month can surely be credited to Jackson playing out of his mind, but the offensive line deserves some of that credit too. From the Dallas game onwards, the unit has found a true starting five and their play has taken both the running and passing game to another level.
With Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith banged up and unable to go this week, Anthony Averett stepped up big time, playing 100% of the team’s defensive snaps for the first time in his career. He showed why the team has faith in him to do so, finishing the game with two pass breakups, and just missing an interception.
The first breakup came on New York’s second offensive play when he read a slant run by Darius Slayton perfectly, jumped the route and nearly took it back for six. The final one came with just over 10 minutes remaining in the game where he swatted the ball to the ground over the middle of the field on a pass intended for tight end Evan Engram.
“We’ve got trust in him, he’s playing some good football,” Matthew Judon said. “We put him out there on an island sometimes and he comes up big for us.”
Chris Board’s role is expanding every week. Without a legitimate third safety on the roster, Board, a high school and college safety at North Dakota State, has sort of become that at times while also still playing some inside linebacker. It’s become a rotation of sorts with him and L.J. Fort at that spot, and Malik Harrison’s snaps have taken a hit because of it.
Regardless, Board had an awesome game against the Giants. He took advantage of some miscommunication errors from the Giants offensive line and finished with two sacks. He is emerging as a key cog in the Ravens defense while still contributing on special teams.
Coach Harbaugh: @C_Board49 is really making a name for himself 🔥🔥
Back in action at Cincinnati Sunday at 1 p.m. on CBS pic.twitter.com/sHALhF6Km8
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) December 28, 2020
Clark and Elliot
Like last week, I’m nitpicking here. DeShon Elliot has truly emerged after the release of Earl Thomas in August and has likely earned himself a nice payday, and he and Chuck Clark have been a reliable duo for Baltimore, for the most part. But, one thing that was noticeable on Sunday and has been for some time now is the two occasionally struggle in one-on-one coverage. Clark had an illegal contact and a pass interference called on him and Engram, who found himself mainly covered by one of the two safeties, had some success with seven catches for 65 yards.
Again, I’m struggling to find much of any negatives here the last couple of weeks.