Since Lamar Jackson became the starting quarterback, the Ravens have boasted one of the most prolific rushing offenses of all time which culminated in the tying of the 1974-77 Pittsburgh Steelers’ record of 43 straight games with at least 100 rushing yards.
Having said that, the running game being held to 102 and 86 yards in the last two weeks is an issue. The Ravens averaged 3.4 yards per carry in both of those games. While Lamar accounting for 95% of the Ravens’ yards by himself is awesome, it’s not sustainable for a team trying to win a Super Bowl. That’s how the Ravens lost to the Titans after going 14-2. Lamar had to do things by himself.
So what’s the issue?
Getting the obvious one out of the way, the absence JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards has proven that the two of them are more than just two guys benefiting from a great run scheme. However, while the O-Line we last saw them play against was dominated by Buffalo’s front 7, the O-Line that the Ravens have now is more banged up and has less talent. I’m getting this out of the way now: I don’t think that this is the problem with the running game.
Run blocking has been an issue the last two weeks, but I don’t think it’s because the offensive line isn’t good. Quite the opposite in fact. I think the big fellas have performed quite admirably with the hand that they’ve been dealt this season, Bradley Bozeman in particular.
So what is the problem? Frankly I think the Broncos and Colts spent their weeks planning on stopping the run game, and they did a good job of that. Looking back at those games, both teams would be sending seven or eight guys into the box and the Ravens running backs can’t get free because there were just so many defenders occupying so much space.
If this were 2019 or maybe even 2020, we might be in trouble, but this is 2021. Not only has Lamar Jackson come into this season improved throwing the football (again), but now he actually has wide receivers that can take advantage of defenses selling out to stop the run.
The NFL will notice that Lamar just threw for over 400 yards. If they keep selling out to stop the run, Hollywood Brown and soon to be Rashod Bateman will be running hog wild in the open field.
Shout out Greg Roman for trusting his receivers and Lamar to take over when the run game isn’t working. The additions of Keith Williams and Tee Martin have proven to be invaluable to Hollywood’s development as a receiver and, dare I say it, the true number 1 the Ravens haven’t had in years.
One more thing I think that is holding the Ravens running game back is that the Ravens don’t have, or at least aren’t using, one running back consistently. Against the Colts, no one not named Lamar Jackson ran the ball more than six times. Against Detroit, no one not named Lamar Jackson ran the ball more than seven times. Lamar Jackson has been the Ravens’ leading rusher in all but one of their games so far this season. The one in which he didn’t? That would be the game against Denver. That game that the Ravens held a consistent lead. Go Figure. That’s not something that’s going to continue, at least not for the sake of this offense or Lamar’s health. Someone out of the four guys the Ravens have brought in is going to have to become that lead guy.
John Harbaugh seems to have the most confidence in Latavius Murray, as he’s been getting the bulk of the carries from the running back room. After a good showing in the passing game against Indianapolis, expect more of that for Devonta Freeman. Ty’Son Williams for better or for worse seems to still be in the Harbaugh Doghouse, albeit less so last week. That leaves Le’Veon Bell. I don’t have an opinion on the guy yet because I just haven’t seen enough of him to form one. His ability to wait for running lanes to form seems to still be there so I am curious to see what he can do when given more touches against a defense that isn’t selling out to stop the run.
In closing, don’t worry about the run game being stagnant the last few weeks, it will come along. The Ravens have played five games of 17. There’s plenty of time to figure things out.
Speaking of that, what team has allowed the most rushing yards per game so far this season? None other than the Los Angeles Chargers.