Ravens Make Final Call on Productive Running Back’s Future: Report

Melvin Gordon III

Getty The Baltimore Ravens made a big decision about a Pro-Bowl running back's future.

J.K. Dobbins has one less running back to compete with after the Baltimore Ravens released Melvin Gordon III on Tuesday, August 29.

Dobbins figures to be the lead workhorse in Baltimore, even after a hold-in during training camp over a new contract. Gordon, who had been signed as veteran insurance on a one-year deal as recently as July, didn’t survive final cuts, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Schefter’s colleague Jamison Hensley indicated a crowded depth chart left two-time Pro Bowler Gordon as the odd man out, with the Ravens liking “undrafted rookie Keaton Mitchell.”

Gordon’s release increases the onus on Dobbins to stay healthy and happy with his situation. Although the Ravens signed wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in free agency, after replacing Greg Roman with Todd Monken as offensive coordinator, Baltimore’s offense is still likely to lean heavily on a productive running game.

Ravens Rolling the Dice Without Veteran Cover

Gordon was a proven commodity who has scored 69 touchdowns during his career. The 30-year-old also rushed for 1,105 yards as a member of the Los Angeles Chargers back in 2017.

Without Gordon, the Ravens are rolling the dice on Dobbins staying healthy. That’s not somethig he’s managed to do for long since entering the NFL as a second-round draft pick in 2020.

Dobbins has started just nine games after missing all of the 2021 season with a torn ACL and LCL. The injury limited Dobbins to a mere eight games last season, although he still did a lot with a little.

Specifically, Dobbins amassed 125 yards on just 13 carries against AFC North rivals the Cleveland Browns in Week 14. Dobbins took hardly any time to pace all running backs in rushing, per Hensley.

Production like this is why the Ravens need Dobbins to stay upright and motivated. The latter is only a question following an offseason where Dobbins has been visibly “frustrated” by his contract status.

He’s in the final year of his rookie deal, but Dobbins hopes he’s “playing for the Ravens for the rest of my life, in my football career,” per NFL.com’s Eric Edholm. The Ravens will merely be hopeful Dobbins and the rest of their running backs are available long enough to complement a new-look passing game.

Durability Also an Issue for Backup RBs

Those behind Dobbins on the depth chart are no strangers to injuries. Not when Justice Hill also missed the entire ’21 campaign after tearing his Achilles.

Hill still had more value than Gordon, though, thanks to his effectiveness on special teams. His role as an “excellent gunner” was summed up by “Ravens Vault” co-host Sarah Ellison.

While Hill also offers breakaway speed as a ball-carrier, Edwards is a grinder between the tackles. His power style has led to wear and tear, with No. 35 getting on the field for only nine games last season. Edwards was the third Ravens’ runner to miss the majority of the 2021 season, after he also tore his ACL.

This lengthy an injury list at the position ought to have tempted the Ravens to focus on sure things. Gordon qualified, but instead the team is prepared to bet on Mitchell belying his undrafted status and making the grade in the NFL.

It’s not a major gamble when Mitchell averaged 7.2 yards per carry during his final season at East Carolina. Mitchell offers big-play potential, something the Ravens are counting on Dobbins to deliver, but every member of this backfield rotation will need to pick up the slack.

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