John Harbaugh Says Ravens Top RBs Could ‘Shock the World’ in 2023

Ravens RBs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards

Getty Ravens RBs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards will be more than a year removed from major knee injuries next season.

Two years ago the Baltimore Ravens’ entire backfield was decimated by injuries as all three of the top running backs suffered season-ending injuries before the 2021 season opener. Justice Hill went down with a torn Achilles and both J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards tore their ACLs within a week and a half of each other.

All three returned for the 2022 season but Hill was the only one that looked as good as new if not even better than his pre-injury form and recorded career-highs in rushing yards (262) and yards per carry (5.3) according to Pro Football Reference.

Dobbins sat out the first two weeks of the season and missed six games in the middle of the year after undergoing a knee scope but clearly wasn’t fully recovered even after undergoing the midseason procedure. Edwards didn’t make his debut until Week 7 and missed two games shortly after making his return due to a hamstring injury.

At the annual league meetings, head coach John Harbaugh talked about how excited he is to see both of them another year removed from major knee injuries that required “subsequent surgeries to clean out the cartilage” in their respective injured knees.

“They both told me what a difference that made,” he said on March 27, 2023. “I think those guys are going to be ready to shock the world. I think they’re going to come back and play great football.”

The last time they were both healthy was Dobbins’ rookie year and Edwards’ third season in the league back in 2020. They joined forces with then-reigning MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson to spearhead the most lethal rushing attack in the league.

Both players produced at highly efficient levels with Dobbins averaging (6.0) yards per carry and finishing second on the team in rushing yards and leading the team in rushing touchdowns (9) and Edwards averaging (5.0) yards per carry and recording his third straight season of over 700 rushing yards per Pro Football Reference.

Even though they weren’t quite themselves upon their initial returns last year, both of them showed consistent flashes of the difference-making weapons they can be when on the field. Dobbins still averaged 5.7 yards per carry, Edwards was once again at 5.0 and both rushed for over 400 yards despite playing in less than 10 games on a limited snap count for most of the year.

With both of them heading into the final year of their respective contracts, the Ravens will get the best out of their top two running backs who will be chomping at the bit not only to prove that they can return to pre-injury form but to surpass is it. They’ll both be playing for new deals to perhaps be the bell in Baltimore in 2024 and beyond.

Young Edge Rushers Stepping Up is ‘Critically Important’

Their running back tandem isn’t the only position pairing that they have high expectations for this year. Harbaugh also talked about how excited he and the rest of the team is to see the continued maturation of outside linebackers Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo who they selected in back-to-back years in the first two rounds of their respective drafts.

“For those two young outside backers to step up and be part of the mix is critically important,” he said. “We were talking about it, and they are excited. They are ready to roll, and I believe in those two guys.”

Oweh was selected No. 31 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft out of Penn State and followed up a standout rookie campaign with a solid second season in which he came on strong towards the end of the year. Through two years, he has appeared in 32 games, made eight starts recorded 76 total tackles including 12 for a loss, 8 sacks, 26 quarterback hits, 4 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, and a pass deflection according to Pro Football Reference.

Ojabo was projected to be a top 15 pick in last year’s draft before a torn Achilles he suffered at his Pro Day in late March caused him to fall out of the first round entirely and into the Ravens’ lap at No. 45 overall in the second round. He was able to recover in enough time to play in a handful of games late in his rookie season and recorded a strip-sack, a quarterback hit, and a solo tackle according to Pro Football Reference.

“You’re talking about two first-round [talents] – that’s what they are,” Harbaugh said. “And then you’ve got Tyus Bowser, who’s a leader. So, between those guys right there, I think that’s a good group of young players that we can build around.

The Ravens could also possibly bring back veteran outside linebacker Justin Houston who led the team with 9.5 sacks in a resurgent season last year. He might wait until around the time teams are scheduled to report to training camp before signing as he did in each of the past two years.

“If a veteran gets added, he gets added, or a guy gets added in the draft, that’s fine, but I believe those three guys are going to get to the quarterback,” Harbaugh said.

After having to let some key defensive talent go or walk via trade, free agency, and salary cap casualty, they will need Oweh, Ojabo, Bowser, and others to ramp up their production and increase their impact in 2023.

Ex-Ravens Pro Bowl Defender Finds a New Home NFC South

One of the toughest decisions that the team had to make when they needed to get under the cap before the start of the new league after using the franchise tag on Jackson was releasing veteran defensive end, Calais Campbell.

They made the move on March 13, 2023, and after he reportedly visited four different teams in the weeks that followed, according to NFL insider Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, he is signing a one-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons.

The Falcons were the first team that the 36-year-old met with on his free agency tour and is honestly the most surprising landing spot given that they are the least likely to contend for a championship of the bunch. He also visited the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, and another one of his former teams the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Both the Bills and Jaguars made the playoffs last year and the Jets came up just short but are on the verge of acquiring four-time league MVP Aaron Rogers. The Falcons, on the other hand, haven’t been in the postseason since 2017 and while they have talent on both sides of the ball, have a quarterback situation that is middling at best with 2022 third-rounder Desmond Ridder and journeyman veteran Taylor Heinicke.

While the Ravens left the door open for a potential reunion with Campbell at some point, this move effectively closes that door and means that they will need to find a new starting five-technique to replace or rotate with veteran Brent Urban who was re-signed earlier this offseason.

Replacing Campbell’s production and leadership will be easier said than done as he finished tied for the second most sacks on the team last year with 5.5 and has been one of the most stalwart leaders in the locker room the past three seasons. The future Hall of Famer finished his Ravens career with 113 total tackles including 14 for a loss, 11 sacks, 36 quarterback hits, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, and 9 pass deflections according to Pro Football Reference.

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