Ravens’ OC Says Improving Run Game Comes Down to Execution

Ravens RB Justice Hill

Getty Ravens RB Justice Hill running the ball in a regular season game on September 18, 2022.

Through the first two games of the 2022 regular season, the Baltimore Ravens’ passing attack has been potent and highly efficient. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for their running game, which uncharacteristically currently ranks near the bottom half of the league.

Their best plays and the vast majority of the yards they have gained on the ground have come from the herculean contributions of their dynamic dual-threat quarterback, Lamar Jackson. While they have produced multiple big plays of 20 or more yards through the air, their longest rush and only to go for 20 or more yards so far was the 79-yard touchdown Jackson ripped off in Week 2 against the Miami Dolphins.

While the Ravens have been without their top two running backs to start the season with J.K. Dobbins still ramping up and Gus Edwards beginning the year on the PUP list, they are still in far better shape at the position than they were this time last year after their entire depth chart was ravaged by injuries before the season opener. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman believes that the issue lies with a lack of overall execution but the “entire offense” rather than talent deficiency on the offensive line or in the backfield.

“I think really, it’s a play-by-play situation right now where we have to execute as an entire offense in the running game a little bit better,” Roman said in a press conference on September 22, 2022. “It’s going to be a work in progress. I think we know how to do it, but it’s going to be something that we all have to just continue to get better at, and I have to do a better job with and teach it better. I feel really confident about that happening.”

He takes some of the responsibility as the unit’s play caller for not always dialing up the best play but believes that they are close to turning a corner and are on the precipice of getting their ground game back on track.

“It truly is a thing here and a thing there,” Roman said. “On a couple instances, I think I can get us in better plays too, as far as play calling. Believe it or not, I felt like we took a step in the right direction last week. I think it will continue to improve week to week.”

The Ravens’ offensive line hasn’t been consistently getting push in the run game especially down near the goal line and in short-yardage situations. However, the starting unit and three-time Pro Bowl fullback Patrick Ricard have been paving the way to get their ball carriers into the second level for modest to long gains, they just haven’t been following their blocks on a consistent basis or using their vision to find cutback lanes when they’ve presented themselves.

Justice Hill Could Get More Involved

One member of their backfield that hasn’t received many touches but has shown flashes when he has gotten them is Justice Hill. He led the Ravens’ running backs in rushing yards against the Dolphins despite receiving the fewest carries and snaps and finished as the team’s second-leading rusher behind Jackson with 13 yards on three carries.

Hill suffered a torn Achilles tendon that cost him the entire 2021 season but he made a speedy recovery and looks to have more power and explosiveness than he had before. Most of his yards in Week 2 came on a 13-yard run that could’ve gone for a lot more had he just stayed inside his blockers and just exploded north upfield but it was still the longest run by a Ravens’ running back thus far regardless.

When asked if the fourth-year pro could get more carries and see more involvement on offense going forward, head coach John Harbaugh said that he “absolutely” will.

“He’s doing a great job,” Harbaugh said in a press conference on September 19, 2022. “I think he’s looked good all through the preseason. He came back from his injury exceptionally well. All of his numbers are way up – even better than he was before – and he’s running hard.”

Rotation at Left Guard Could Help Run Game, Too

Another adjustment the Ravens could make to give their rushing attack a boost could be to go back to the same two-man rotation they deployed at left guard last season. Current starter Ben Powers rotated with 2021 third-rounder Ben Cleveland when he was healthy with the two taking a near-even split of the snaps at the position from weeks 2-4 before he placed him as the full-time starter for the final four games last year.

Many expected Cleveland to win the starting job outright in training camp but Powers emerged from the competition as the victor when the season opened. While the gritty fourth-year pro has performed well in pass protection, he is one of the blockers that hasn’t been able to get much push from the interior which has led to the offense’s short-yardage and goal-line woes.

Cleveland is a massive human being at 6-foot-6 and 370 pounds compared to Powers’ 6-foot-4 and 338 pounds and has shown he can be both a road grader and mauler with his run blocking. His strength, size, and tenacity could be key in helping the Ravens salt away games where they have big leads and want to go on long, time-consuming, run-heavy drives in the second half.