The frustrating thing about the Baltimore Ravens not making a trade at the NFL trade deadline is that you can’t possibly get the answer you want.
I mean, you’ll get generic responses, sure. But the Ravens aren’t going to specifically tell you why they didn’t trade for a certain player who isn’t on their roster. They can’t!
Let’s just say, hypothetically, that the Ravens REALLY wanted Colts running back Marlon Mack but Indianapolis ultimately decided it could either end up competing with the Ravens for a wild-card spot or face them in the playoffs, so it simply didn’t want to give Baltimore a potential weapon for the minimal return it likely would have been able to get.
That’s a plausible scenario! All of it would make total sense! But if the Ravens were to tell us that, they’d also be telling us that they don’t fully believe in the running backs they have. You know, the guys who have to go play this Sunday against the Vikings and, more than likely, for the rest of the year.
There’s nothing good that comes from that. They CAN’T be honest. And that’s OK. At least it is for me. Truly. I get it. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to know! I’d love to know why a team that so clearly needs running back help didn’t find any. But I understand. They can’t tell me. They have games to win. Alienating the players on their roster is far more potentially damaging than not being able to tell the truth to the internet’s Glenn Clark. It’s fine. I swear.
So we’ll never really know why the Ravens stood pat at the trade deadline. I can’t really say I’m “second guessing” their decision to not add a back in particular because, you know, it might not have been their decision. They might well have tried! That’s the problem with being tasked with writing a post-trade deadline opinion column when no trade occurred. I think the Ravens should have added a younger running back. And while the sheer number of backs in the NFL might make you think such a trade was possible, there’s just no guarantee that’s true.
So now what, exactly?
The “now what” is that come hell or high water, the Ravens must figure out a way to get some sort of consistent production from their running backs the rest of the way. How that happens? I’m not quite so sure about that part. But they need to find it. The Ravens don’t currently have a single running back averaging even 40 yards per game on the ground. The last time a Super Bowl champion didn’t have a single running back average at least FORTY-FIVE yards per game (while playing in at least half of the team’s games) was … the 2002 Buccaneers! And even then, Michael Pittman’s 44.9 yards per game were nearly 10 more than the Ravens’ current leading back (Ty’Son Williams, yes, at 36).
I know what you’re thinking. “Glenn, aren’t you doing a little bit of funny math here? The Ravens’ leading rusher is averaging 68.6 yards per game on the ground. His name is Lamar Jackson.”
And you’re right. So let me try this again. The now is that come hell or high water, the Ravens must figure out a way to get some sort of consistent production from their running backs the rest of the way or else they will be placing their quarterback in an unprecedented position of having to shoulder the load. Even Patrick Mahomes got a little more help from his backs when the Chiefs won the Super Bowl in 2019.
Jackson has been phenomenal this season. There’s no debating that. While the Bengals game wasn’t necessarily his finest moment, he’s been spectacular on the whole. But trying to win a Super Bowl while asking Jackson to shoulder this much of the load (with an underwhelming defense to boot) is borderline malpractice. He’s proven he can win games while throwing 40-plus times. But this is a monumental ask if the pace continues.
The solution isn’t coming from the outside now that we’re past the deadline. As Jonas Shaffer recently pointed out in The Baltimore Sun, Devonta Freeman actually leads all Ravens with 0.34 rushing yards over expected (RYOE) per attempt this season, even more than the elusive Jackson (0.32). Freeman has earned just three more carries than Le’Veon Bell (who carries a league worst -2.05 RYOE per attempt) despite playing in three more games. Perhaps that’s a sign that Freeman has earned the opportunity to take on more of the workload. Perhaps it’s too small a sample size and the soon-to-be 30-year-old Freeman couldn’t keep up the pace with more carries.
The pending return of Nick Boyle SHOULD help. But it could be mitigated by how paper thin the offensive line depth appears to be without a trade to fortify that group. And yes, either of these areas could still be bolstered by the addition of a player released by another team, but those players would have to clear waivers for the Ravens to add them.
This is the group. And they must find a way to be more productive in the backfield. I can’t pretend to be particularly confident that they will. But I can’t tell you that I was confident they’d win five of their first seven games with a third of their roster missing, either.
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