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Run, Ravens, Run

Gus Edwards runs against Tampa
Joey Pulone/Baltimore Ravens
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“One thing about championship teams is that they’re resilient. No matter what is thrown at them, no matter how deep the hole, they find a way to bounce back and overcome adversity.” 

— Nick Saban

Ravens GM Eric DeCosta learned much from all of the challenges surrounding the team last season, mainly with injuries.

One of the main issues was with the running backs room when J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards both suffered season-ending knee injuries during training camp.

Both Dobbins and Edwards have missed time again this season, but DeCosta made sure the Ravens had reinforcements. Baltimore’s running attack is ranked second in the NFL with Kenyan Drake, Justice Hill, and Mike Davis carrying the load as Dobbins and Edwards have healed from their latest setbacks.

“We have really good running backs; we’ve really developed – because of what happened probably last year and into this year – [executive vice president and general manager] Eric [DeCosta] has done a great job of going out and getting guys,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Obviously, Justice came back from the Achilles [injury] really well, we were able to acquire Kenyan Drake, we were able to sign Mike Davis. Those were big for us; those guys are all very high-quality backs in the National Football League.”

Entering Week 10, The Ravens are averaging 168.1 yards per game, second behind only the Chicago Bears (195.4). Hill is averaging 5.9 yards on 32 carries. Drake, who was cut by the Raiders in August, leads this unit with 344 yards and three touchdowns.

“I think the blocking is improving, obviously all the reads, all the things we do,” Harbaugh said. “We have some good scheme stuff, so give everybody credit; it’s a team effort. Also, [Drake] is getting a feel for the way that the schemes work, the footwork. We run a lot of different kind of mid-line footwork schemes that a lot of people don’t use.”

Last year, the Ravens signed veterans Latavius Murray, Devonta Freeman, and Le’Veon Bell when Dobbins and Edwards were ruled out. Baltimore finished ranked third in the NFL with 145.8 rushing yards per game, but that was mainly because of quarterback Lamar Jackson, who led the Ravens with 767 yards rushing. Freeman was second with 576 yards rushing and then Murray (501). Bell was released mid-season.

The Ravens expect both Dobbins and Edwards to return to the lineup in the next several weeks, which will be another boost to the running attack.

“J.K. will be back in a few weeks and then Gus will be back next game, so that’s the plan,” Harbaugh said. “All that being said, it’s really a group effort. Everybody working on all aspects of the run game because it’s a group effort. You don’t just hand the ball off and the back goes and makes a bunch of yards. It all has to kind of work together. That’s what we’re getting better at. We still have to get a lot better, because we’re not where we want to be yet, but we are improving.”

DeCosta also did a good job reinforcing the offensive line, which is among the best in the league at run-blocking. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley is back in the lineup and playing at a Pro Bowl level.

Stanley has the highest blocking grade (90.5) among all the team’s offensive linemen since Week 5, according to Pro Football Focus.

“I don’t think there was a point I really doubted I’d get back to this level,” Stanley said. “I just knew if I got the right amount of time and attention to what I knew I needed, I knew I could come back and play at a high level.

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