Ravens Work Out 2 Pro Bowl RBs After Another Season-Ending Injury

Le'Veon Bell

Getty Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell takes flight in a 2013 game against the Minnesota Vikings.

The Baltimore Ravens are actively auditioning running backs after third-year back Justice Hill tore his Achilles at a recent practice, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

The injury will keep Hill out for the 2021 season, leaving the Ravens with only two running back on the roster after J.K. Dobbins’ season-ending ACL tear against the Washington Football Team on August 28.

Hill has been a steady third-string running back in Baltimore since he was drafted in 2019, providing solid pass protection and contributing on special teams as well.

The Ravens worked out Le’Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman and Elijah Holyfield on Monday, per Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic, and Trenton Cannon on Tuesday, per USA Today’s Josina Anderson. The Ravens will likely sign one of these four to back up Gus Edwards and Ty’Son Williams.

Edwards will enter the year as the Ravens clear-cut RB1, while Williams will likely get the second-most carries after an impressive preseason.

With less than a week before the regular season opener against the Las Vegas Raiders, the Ravens will need to act quickly to add a third running back to support their run-heavy offense.

Le’Veon Bell

Bell was originally linked with the Ravens after he left the Pittsburgh Steelers following his 2018 holdout, but opted to sign a four-year, $52.5 million contract with the New York Jets.

Bell struggled behind the Jets’ subpar offensive line in 2019, averaging only 3.2 yards per carry, but excelled as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. He caught 66 of his 78 targets for 461 yards, earning a 77.3 receiving grade from Pro Football Focus.

The Michigan State product injured his hamstring in the Jets’ first regular season game in 2020, missing the next three games. He returned for a Week 5 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals, but stirred up drama after the game by liking tweets that criticized then-Jets head coach Adam Gase and suggested the team should trade Bell.

The Jets released Bell after failing to find a trade suitor for the two-time All-Pro, who was then scooped up by the Kansas City Chiefs, where he played the rest of the season before becoming a free agent.

While Bell may not be the bell cow running back he was in Pittsburgh, his patience in attacking holes and pass-catching ability could make him a good fit in Baltimore.

Devonta Freeman

Freeman had three productive seasons as an Atlanta Falcon before injuries limited him to just two games in 2018. He returned in 2019 with over 1,000 all-purpose yards, finishing with a 69.5 grade from PFF for his receiving efforts, with 59 catches for 410 yards.

An ankle injury limited Freeman’s 2020 contributions for the New York Giants, and he found himself a free agent after the season ended. The New Orleans Saints signed him in early August, but he was released as part of the team’s 53-man roster cuts.

Injuries and over 1,000 career carries may have cause Freeman to lose a step, but he’d likely find success in Baltimore with his physical running style. But his signing will likely depend on how much the Ravens feel he can add to the passing game, with a majority of carriers spoken for by Edwards and Williams.

Freeman reportedly underwent a medical evaluation, per Anderson, suggesting that the Ravens may be close to pulling the trigger on signing the veteran running back.

Elijah Holyfield

Holyfield, son of former boxing champ Evander Holyfield, is a much lesser-known figure than Bell and Freeman, both of whom have national name recognition and established pedigrees.

He signed with the Carolina Panthers as an undrafted free agent in 2019 and spent the season on their practice squad before landing on the Philadelphia Eagles‘ practice squad for the 2020 season. He was waived by the Eagles on August 29 as part of the team’s final roster cuts.

Holyfield ran for 1,018 yards as a junior at the University of Georgia, but then-teammate and current Detroit Lion De’Andre Swift handled the Bulldogs’ third-down back responsibilities.

He profiles as a similar back to Edwards and Williams, with a bruising style that netted him 6.2 yards per carry during his college career.

But his downsides may be too much to ignore for the Ravens to sign him to the active roster. A sluggish 4.78-second 40-yard dash and only 7 career catches in college suggest that he lacks the top-tier speed and receiving skills the Ravens are seeking after the injuries to Dobbins and Hill. Holyfield may be a better fit on the practice squad after Nate McCrary was signed by the Denver Broncos.

Trenton Cannon

Unlike Holyfield, Cannon would represent a serious departure from the Ravens’ current stable of running backs, who prioritize powerful running through contact over breakaway speed.

As a senior at Virginia State University in 2017, Cannon recorded 1,638 rushing yards and 20 total touchdowns, earning him a sixth-round selection by the Jets. He failed to stand out in New York and was waived in August 2020.

The Panthers signed Cannon as a kick returner last season before waiving him on September 2 to make room for RB Royce Freeman, who the Ravens attempted to claim off waivers, according to ESPN’s Field Yates.

Cannon is an apt name for the fourth-year back, who ran a blazing 4.40-second 40-yard dash in at the 2018 NFL Combine. His speed has shown up in his pro career as well, averaging 29.8 yards per kick return last season, third among players with at least 10 returns.

Cannon would be a change-of-pace back in Baltimore, where offensive coordinator Greg Roman may find exciting ways to use his speed and shiftiness.

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