One of the most puzzling developments of the Baltimore Ravens 2021 regular season has been the lack of involvement of running back Ty’Son Williams in the offense. After an impressive first couple of games in Week 1 and 2 that was preceded by a standout preseason, the second-year undrafted free agent has seen a precipitous drop off in his offensive snap count.
Williams gashed the Las Vegas Raiders for 94 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown on 12 touches in the season opener and followed it up with a 93-yard outing on 15 touches including a season-high 13 carries against the Kansas City Chiefs the next week. However, in the weeks since, he has taken a back seat to the seasoned veteran trio of Le’Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman, and Latavius Murray.
He has yet to eclipse more than six total touches in a game since then and didn’t even take a single offensive snap in the team’s upset loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 10. Some speculation about the reasons for Williams’ reduced workload suggested that it was related to ball security issues but a potential resolution is more multifaceted.
Head Coach John Harbaugh explained without singling out a Williams. “Every player just has to contribute and perform and produce when they’re out there, and that goes for any player,” Harbaugh said. “So, if you’re a running back, you need to run hard, you need to break tackles, you need to get yards, you need to pass protect, you need to run the right route out of the backfield, catch the ball and get up [the] field.”
While Williams didn’t touch the ball or even see the field on offense last week against Miami, he did participate on special teams for the first time this season with six snaps. Players at or near the bottom of their respective depth charts often must prove themselves worthy of playing time on either side of the ball with strong showings in the often overlooked phase of the game.
“If you’re in the rotation, special teams sure would help you,” said Harbaugh. “Get out there and run down kicks, get on the punt team, get on the punt return team, because that’s how you got on there when you’re the third back, in that case. So, I’m not talking about one player; it’s anybody in that spot, or it’s anybody at any position. You’ve got to produce.”
Running back isn’t usually a position where a player earns more snaps on offense unless they stand out as a returner or blocker. Defensive players are a lot more likely to have their roles increased and skills displayed covering kicks and punts translate to success on their side of the ball. Justice Hill had established himself as one of the team’s top gunners on both coverage units last season and while it ensured that he was active more often than not, it didn’t lead to an increased snap count on offense.
That being said, Williams has not only produced in limited and sporadic opportunities but he has by far looked like the best of the bunch for the Ravens position group that saw all top three of their depth chart suffer season-ending injuries’ before the season started. He still leads all backs on the team with 5.5 yards per carry and possesses the speed, burst, and acceleration that others simply don’t have or show on a consistent basis.
If Williams can prove himself once again by stepping up more on special teams going forward then perhaps in due time he will be given more opportunities to touch the ball and be more involved on offense.