2 Ravens Players Named 2021 Breakout Candidates

Ravens Justin Madubuike

Getty Ravens defensive tackle Justin Madubuike hits Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow in an October 2020 game.

Two second-year Baltimore Ravens have been repeatedly referenced as potential breakout stars this season, one on offense and one on defense.

Running back J.K. Dobbins is looking to build off a strong rookie season that saw him reach the end zone in seven straight games and lead the league in yards per carry.

After an injury to start the season last year, defensive tackle Justin Madubuike will be aiming to translate his physical gifts into on-field results.

Dobbins Wants to Take His Game to the Next Level

After a successful rookie year that saw him leapfrog veteran Mark Ingram II on the depth chart, J.K. Dobbins wants to hit another gear in his sophomore campaign.

He is especially focused on playing a bigger role in the passing game, he told Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com.

“I’ve always prided myself on being an offensive weapon – not one-dimensional,” said the Ohio State product, aiming to match the impact of do-it-all backs Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey. The hard work appears to be paying off; a photo posted on the Ravens Twitter account showed Dobbins making a difficult leaping catch against linebacker Malik Harrison in OTAs.

NFL Network analyst Maurice Jones-Drew thinks that Dobbins is poised for a breakout season. The former Jaguars All-Pro running back wrote:

With Baltimore retooling its offensive line and adding more weapons in the pass game to help stretch the field, I’m excited to see how Dobbins is utilized in Greg Roman’s offense. Get ready for a big season from the Ravens’ RB1.

Jones-Drew’s enthusiasm is shared by NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, who praised Dobbins’ balance, instincts and toughness, saying “He could have a monster season.”

Dobbins was also listed by CBS Sports’ Bryan DeArdo as one of five running backs with the potential to break Eric Dickerson’s 1984 single-season rushing yards record.

Madubuike Looking for Sophomore Leap

Injuries stunted Justin Madubuike’s development last year, as the tackle out of Texas A&M hurt his leg in the preseason and didn’t play until Week 5. He showed some flashes in 2020, but the Ravens are hoping that increased playing time will result in increased production this year.

Coaches and veterans alike are excited about Madubuike’s potential. Head coach John Harbaugh is “fired up” about the second-year tackle, particularly his combination of speed and power on the interior of the defensive line, according to Clifton Brown of Baltimore Ravens.com.

Ravens’ offensive lineman Bradley Bozeman told media Madubuike is “one of the harder people I’ve ever had to move,” per a video posted to the Ravens Twitter account.

Veteran defensive lineman Derek Wolfe said of Madubuike, “He’s got the ability to become an All-Pro football player,” per SB Nation’s Joshua Reed.

All-Pro defensive end Calais Campbell also thinks Madubuike will make a “big jump” this season, wrote Brown. With high-caliber veterans to learn from, Madubuike will have ample opportunity to refine his technique this season.

While the Ravens have retooled on the edge this season, drafting OLB Odafe Oweh and recently signing OLB Justin Houston, Madubuike offers a legitimate threat to generate pressure on the inside. His development could take the Ravens’ pass rush to a new level in their quest for a Super Bowl this year.

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