J.K. Dobbins out for 2021 season, what does that mean for Ravens offense?

The Sports Extra Podcast

A brutal end to the preseason for the Baltimore Ravens as J.K. Dobbins suffers a season-ending ACL tear against the Washington Football Team. The running back will miss the entire 2021 season.

There are few players more crucial to the Ravens offense than Dobbins. The second-year RB averaged 6.0 yards per carry in his rookie season. His numbers were good enough for third amongst rookie RB in 2020 with 805 yards, third in rushing yards per carry (6.0) and third in touchdowns (9).

So how do you replace your team’s leading running back just two weeks away from the start of the regular season?

Replacement by committee

Gus Edwards is next on the depth chart, but is largely considered a power back. So instead, the best rushing attack in the NFL in 2020 will rely on a combination.

“The way we run our offense, we want to roll backs. We want to play multiple backs. We have a lot of carries, so those guys do a lot in the offense,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “It’s not like it’s gonna be one running back that takes all of the reps for us. We need three backs active every game, we’re gonna need a back or two on the practice squad that’s ready to go, so that’s kind of how we operate.”

The offense averaged 192 yards per game on the ground in 2020, led by quarterback Lamar Jackson with 1,055 yards.

Rushing Leaders in 2020

PlayerPOSAttYardsYPCTD
Lamar JacksonQB1591,0556.37
J.K. DobbinsRB1348056.09
Gus EdwardsRB1447235.06
Mark Ingram IIRB722994.22
Devin DuvernayWR47017.50

Ingram is no longer on the Ravens roster, but the Baltimore RB room has relative depth. Before Tuesday’s deadline to cut to 53 players, the Ravens have Edwards, Justice Hill, Ty’Son Williams and rookie Nate McCrary.

Williams and McCrary combined for 110 yards on 26 carries after Dobbins’ injury.

Bring in another RB?

The natural next question is: do the Ravens need to trade to bring someone in? Harbaugh isn’t ready to say no just yet.

“It’s not like any position that we’re not going to be looking for opportunity to improve,” Harbaugh said. “Obviously, that’s a conversation because of J.K.’s injury. I wouldn’t say I’d be surprised if there was a back that came available that was better than what we have for us, but if that were to be the case or some veteran out there made sense, I’m sure we’d do it. Whatever we can do to make our team better, we’ll do.”

Could the Ravens pick up a free agent like Harrisburg’s LeSean McCoy? Would RB Todd Gurley give Baltimore some options in a multi-faceted rushing attack? Let’s explore some of those options.

Possible replacements

Todd Gurley

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 29: Todd Gurley #30 of the Los Angeles Rams looks on prior to a game against the Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 29, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

The former Falcons and Rams running back has already been rumored to be talking with the Ravens on making a deal happen. The 2017 NFL Offensive Player of the Year already worked out with the team in the offseason.

He attempted 195 carriers for just 678 yards, averaging 3.5 yards per carry. That ranks lowest for the once prolific back in both attempts and yards in his career. His best three seasons were as a rookie in 2015 (1,106 yards, 10 TD and Pro Bowl selection), 2017 (1,305 yards, 13 TD, Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro) and 2018 (1,251 yards, 17 TD, Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro).

LeSean McCoy

PHILADELPHIA, PA – DECEMBER 07: LeSean McCoy #25 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks on from the bench during the first quarter against the Seattle Seahawks at Lincoln Financial Field on December 7, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Evan Habeeb/Getty Images)

It wasn’t that long ago that Harrisburg-native LeSean McCoy was putting up 1,000+ yard rushing seasons (as recently as 2017). Since then, he’s taken a back seat rushing for 1,010 yards in three seasons (2018 with Buffalo, 2019 with Kansas City & 2020 with Tampa Bay).

McCoy, a free agent, recently told The Sports Extra Podcast he has contemplated retirement, but would like to play another season if the right team and the right deal came around.

Duke Johnson

HOUSTON, TEXAS – DECEMBER 01: Duke Johnson #25 of the Houston Texans scores a 14 yard touchdown against the New England Patriots during the first quarter in the game at NRG Stadium on December 01, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

If the Ravens prefer a running back with potential in the passing game (read: injury-laden preseason), Duke Johnson may be an option.

He’s averaged 21.8 yards per game rushing, 31.1 yards per game receiving over the course of his six-year career. Johnson’s played for the Browns for four seasons and Houston for the past two.

Le’Veon Bell

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA – DECEMBER 13: Le’Veon Bell #26 of the Kansas City Chiefs carries the ball against Kamu Grugier-Hill #51 of the Miami Dolphins during the first half of the game at Hard Rock Stadium on December 13, 2020 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Le’Veon Bell has had a rough go the past few seasons. He posted 466 yards from scrimmage in 2020 with the Jets and Chiefs.

He sat out in 2018 with the Steelers before losing some footing in 2019 and 2020. Before his 2018 contract dispute, he rushed for 5,336 yards, 35 touchdowns, averaging 86.1 yards per game in five seasons with Pittsburgh. Since then, he’s put up 1,117 yards, 5 touchdowns, averaging 39.5 yards per game in two seasons with the Jets and one with the Chiefs.

Perhaps a fresh start in Baltimore is exactly what he needs.

Ravens kickoff the regular season against the Raiders on Monday Night Football on September 13, broadcast live on abc27 at 8:15 p.m.

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