John Harbaugh confirmed that running back J.K. Dobbins suffered a torn ACL in the Ravens’ preseason win against Washington Aug. 28, a devastating blow to the league’s No. 1 rushing attack. But Harbaugh said the Ravens plan to operate their multi-pronged rushing attack as usual, even if different players now will take on added responsibility, and he didn’t rule out adding another running back via the waiver wire.
Speaking before the team’s walkthrough practice Aug. 30 — about 28 hours before the roster must be trimmed to 53 players — Harbaugh said it was “fair” to question why Dobbins was even playing in the third preseason game, but he added that the Ravens have played starters less this preseason than ever before.
Harbaugh noted that there is a wide range of starter usage in the preseason among NFL teams, and that the Ravens have been increasingly trending toward those such as the Los Angeles Rams who sit their starters throughout.
“We played our guys so little this offseason,” Harbaugh said. “It’s just been how we’ve done it. But anytime a guy gets hurt, you ask yourselves those questions.”
Dobbins was injured on the first series of the game at Washington when he caught a screen pass and was hit by Washington’s Jimmy Moreland and Jordan Kunaszyk. That came on the ninth play of their first offensive possession at Washington, which was also the first — and last — preseason action for quarterback Lamar Jackson, tight end Mark Andrews and tackle Ronnie Stanley.
After being carted from the field, Dobbins and the Ravens had their fears confirmed when an MRI the next day showed the ACL injury. Dobbins was formally placed on injured reserve Aug. 30, ending his season.
Now, two weeks before the season opener at Las Vegas, the Ravens must reconfigure their rushing attack, which ranked No. 1 in the league last year with 3,071 yards.
“Like any injury, which happen and will happen throughout the course of the NFL … you just have to approach it and overcome it.” Harbaugh said. “It’s adversity, and we’ll have to deal with it and we will. We have the players to do it. … I have full confidence in the rest of the running backs that are here to pick up the load and to do a great job for us.”
Leading it all is Jackson, the Ravens’ leading rusher in each of the past two years and the only quarterback in NFL history with two 1,000-yard seasons. He ran for 1,005 yards last season.
Dobbins was coming off a rookie season in which he ran 134 times for 805 yards, including a career-best 160 in the regular-season finale at Cincinnati. With Mark Ingram no longer in the picture and with the benefit of a full offseason, Dobbins had been heralded among many in the national media as a potential breakout star.
With Dobbins out, the focus turns to Gus Edwards, the 6-foot-1, 238-pound bruiser who has been a steady complement to Ingram and Dobbins since first joining the Ravens as an undrafted rookie in 2018.
Last season, Edwards finished with 723 yards on 144 carries (5.0 avg.), remarkably similar numbers to his first two seasons (137-719 and 133-711). Edwards and Cleveland Browns back Nick Chubb are the only two players in league history that recorded at least 700 rushing yards and an average of at least 5 yards per carry in each of their first three seasons.
Edwards has topped 20 carries twice in his career, with a career-high 23 against Oakland in 2018, but Harbaugh dismissed the idea that, minus Dobbins, Edwards would suddenly become the bell-cow back doing all the work in the Ravens’ backfield now.
“We want to play multiple backs,” Harbaugh said. “We have a lot of carries, so those guys do a lot in the offense. It’s not like it’s going to be one running back that takes all of the reps for us. We need three backs active every game.”
Ty’Son Williams, who spent last season on the practice squad, appears close to a lock to make the team now after Dobbins’ injury and a strong preseason, and Justice Hill returns as well. Williams was thought to be competing for the final running back roster spot with Hill, who has been slowed in preseason by an ankle injury but when healthy is a top special teams player and capable receiver out of the backfield.
Williams looks to have run his way right on to the 53-man roster with a strong training camp. The 6-foot, 220-pounder spent last season on the practice squad after signing with the Ravens as an undrafted rookie out of BYU, his third college. Williams had begun his career at North Carolina, then transferred to South Carolina after one year before finishing at BYU as a grad transfer.
Williams finished with 24 carries for 131 yards in the preseason, and was essentially shut down after the first half of that game in light of Dobbins’ injury, another potential sign of his roster status.
“You do the math, he’s there,” Harbaugh said. “He’ll be out there playing. … He’s ready to go. He’s practiced every day, and he’s excited about his opportunity.”
Harbaugh didn’t rule out adding a player from outside the organization. Former All-Pro and Baltimore native Todd Gurley reportedly visited the Ravens this summer, but Gurley’s chronic knee injuries gave the Ravens pause.
With teams cutting rosters from 80 to 53 players this week, multiple running backs will become available, and the Ravens will be watching that waiver wire closely, but Harbaugh said, “That’s true for every position. … Whatever we can do to make our team better, we’ll do.”
WR MARQUISE BROWN, QB TRACE MCSORLEY RETURN TO PRACTICE: Harbaugh said that wide receiver Marquise Brown and quarterback Trace McSorley both were expected to practice on Aug. 31, though the workout was scaled back to a walkthough and had no media viewing.
Brown has been sidelined since the second day of training camp by a hamstring injury, though he has been doing extensive conditioning work on a side field during practice the past couple of weeks. McSorley has been dealing with a back injury that kept him out of the final two weeks of training camp and the last two preseason games. In his absence, Tyler Huntley has taken command of the No. 2 quarterback job behind Lamar Jackson. Huntley through four touchdown passes and ran for another score in the Ravens 37-3 win at Washington on Aug. 28.
RAVENS BEGIN ROSTER CUTS: The Ravens began trimming their roster Aug. 30, releasing wide receivers Devin Gray and Siaosi Mariner along with veteran offensive lineman Michael Schofield. Those moves, plus Dobbins to IR, leave 76 players on the roster. The Ravens must cut the roster to 53 by 4 p.m. Aug. 31.
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