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Ravens must find ways to utilize Justice Hill this season

Justice is a dish best served with speed.

NFL: AUG 15 Preseason - Packers at Ravens Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The best way to describe fourth-round pick Justice Hill would be as follows: fast, dynamic, and/or captivating. Hill, 21, has been the Ravens leading rusher through two preseason games, turning 20 carries into 82 rushing yards - while also catching two passes.

While these numbers may not jump off the screen or scream future star, Hill himself jumps off the screen and possess many qualities that suggest he may in fact emerge as a star playmaker. Although its preseason and we’re only two games in, it’s hard not to be excited by what we’ve seen from Hill so far, including in OTA’s, minicamp, and training camp.

In addition to his 49 rushing yards against the Packers, Hill forced a missed tackle on all but three of his touches (twelve total). For comparison, starting running back Mark Ingram hasn’t forced this many missed tackles in a game in over five years. Just as he did at Oklahoma State, Hill has looked shifty and agile in space.

Perhaps the most impressive development has been Hill’s ability to be effective in between the tackles. On consecutive rushing attempts in the redzone against Green Bay, Hill does a great job of absorbing contact and utilizing strong body control to churn out tough yardage.

This was an underrated aspect of his game coming out of college, although his potential as a power runner was overshadowed by blazing 4.4 speed and receiving ability. While his upside stems from his athleticism and “scat back” set of skills, Hill is definitely more than a one-trick pony and he’s demonstrating why.

Initial thinking was that Hill would be fourth on the running back depth chart behind Ingram, Gus Edwards, and Kenneth Dixon. While that may hold true to begin the season, Hill is simply too talented to be limited to special teams. The odds of Hill to seeing significant rushing work with three proven rushers ahead of him is unlikely but another strong set of preseason performances from Hill could push Dixon or Edwards to the roster bubble.

The most likely scenario is as follows: Ingram sees the majority of snaps on all three downs, Edwards and Dixon are mixed into the rotation for early-down work, and Hill sees sporadic playing time on passing downs and occasional rushing attempts.

However, it’s not crazy to think Hill’s role could increase as the regular season progresses and that he may usurp either of the backup RB’s ahead of him on the depth chart. In fact, this may actually be the scenario that unfolds.

The potential of Ingram and Hill as a dynamic 1-2 punch is hard to ignore. Their skill sets complement each other well, similar to the duo of Ingram and Alvin Kamara in New Orleans over the past two seasons. This isn’t to say Hill is the next Kamara, as such a lofty comparison is unfair. Hill’s skill set and play style, however, is relatively similar to Kamara.

In summary, Hill’s impressive preseason start confirmed what we already knew: he’s a superb athlete, possesses good versatility, is and dangerous in open space. These qualities make Hill a threat to break off a big play any time he’s on the field, and may just make it impossible for John Harbaugh, Greg Roman and company to keep him off the field.