The free agent signing of Mark Ingram all but reinforces what we already knew: the Ravens are committing to the run-heavy offense we saw in the second half of last season. Thus, the running back position will be more important than ever. As the roster currently stands, Baltimore appears to be in pretty good shape.
Ingram has multiple 1,000-yard seasons under his belt and has averaged at least 4.6 YPC in each of the past four years. There’s a very good argument to be made that he’s the best running back Baltimore has had since Ray Rice. Even if the Ravens had not signed Ingram, they return Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon, two talented young running backs coming off productive seasons.
If there’s one element lacking in the current backfield, it’s an explosive, home-run hitter running back that can make plays as a receiver, such as Tarik Cohen or Chris Thompson. Don’t be surprised if Baltimore adds someone like this in the middle-to-late rounds of the upcoming draft, which John Harbaugh hinted at a few days ago.
Let’s get bold with some out-of-the-box predictions for the Ravens running backs in the 2019 season. Be sure to leave your thoughts down below and share some ideas of your own!
Mark Ingram will post career-highs in receptions & receiving yards
While Ingram is set to slot in as the Ravens primary early-down back, I think we’ll truly see his receiving ability on display this upcoming season, which has been an underrated aspect of his game for the past several seasons. In 2017, Ingram posted career-best numbers as a receiver by catching 58 passes for 416 yards. It’s important to keep in mind that he did so while splitting snaps with Alvin Kamara, arguably the most dynamic receiving back in the league. Now, Ingram joins a backfield with Edwards and Dixon, neither of which brings much to the table as a receiver.
Even if the Ravens do add another running back in the draft, it’s unlikely he’ll eat into Ingram’s snaps. I believe Ingram will quickly become a security blanket for Lamar Jackson and thrive on check downs, screens, and other intermediate passes thrown his way. Given the lack of proven receiving threats on the roster, Ingram has a good chance to establish himself as a consistent contributor in the passing game.
Gus Edwards will record at least 500 yards and five touchdowns
Although Ingram figures to be the lead back, don’t expect “Gus the Bus” to simply fade away. Edwards is coming off an impressive rookie season in which he led the team with 718 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 5.2 yards per carry, almost all of which came in the second half of the season. Before the acquisition of Ingram, Edwards was expected to retain his starting job and while his role will diminish compared to last season, I believe there’s going to be enough volume in this offense to sustain multiple productive rushers.
Even as the No. 2 running back, I think Edwards will see his fair share of carries every game. Scheme and game flow will ultimately determine exactly how many carries he gets, but it’s not unreasonable to expect Edwards to see somewhere between 8-12 carries per contest. In order to reach 500 yards rushing for the year, Edwards would have to average roughly 31 rushing yards per game. Considering he averaged 5.2 YPC last season, this is more than feasible. Just for context, as members of the Saints in 2017, both Ingram and Kamara combined for 1,852 yards. While Edwards is not nearly as talented as Kamara, the Ravens figure to run the ball just as much, if not more, than the Saints did two years ago.
Ravens will part ways with Kenneth Dixon before the end of the season
After he averaged 5.6 yards per carry last season, higher than any other rusher on the roster, writing this about Dixon seems a bit odd timing-wise. However, it’s important to note that Dixon has played just 18 games in three career seasons, which is less than half of possible games. Dixon has struggled to stay healthy and has dealt with misconduct issues as well, leading to multiple suspensions. While he’s always possessed talent and was effective over the second half of last season, Dixon’s time in Baltimore is on the clock.
He’s entering the final year of his rookie contract and barring injuries, his opportunities next year figure to be limited behind Ingram and Edwards on the depth chart. Dixon could garner some interest on the trade market and if he’s not making much of an impact before the trade deadline, getting some return for him before he hits the free agent market makes sense. Having three early-down backs with fairly similar skill sets seems a bit redudant and Edwards is a more affordable long-term option behind Mark Ingram. Add all of this together and Dixon’s tenure in Baltimore may soon be coming to a conclusion.