J.K. Dobbins

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SEE IT: Dwayne Haskins throws an absolute dime to Ravens' J.K. Dobbins while training together

SEE IT: Dwayne Haskins throws an absolute dime to Ravens' J.K. Dobbins while training together

Dwayne Haskins has spent this offseason vigorously training as he braces for an important Year 2 in the NFL. Numerous sessions have featured some big names working alongside him, including Antonio Brown and Chad Johnson.

The latest to get in some work with Haskins has a personal and local connection to the quarterback: Ravens rookie running back J.K. Dobbins. The two were recently filmed working on some routes together, with Haskins hitting Dobbins in stride on a deep ball.

The two share a local connection now as there NFL teams are not too apart from one another, but the relationship actually began during their days at Ohio State. The two formed a dominant quarterback-running back duo for the Buckeyes during the 2018 season when Haskins became the starter.

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Now, they both find themselves entering the 2020 NFL season with large expectations. Haskins now has the keys to the Redskins offense and many are hoping to see a large jump in production and success for the expected franchise passer. As for Dobbins, the versatile running back has many believing that Baltimore's ground attack will be even more dominant than it was in 2019.

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Haskins and Dobbins may be working together now to help each other improve, but they'll soon be opponents. The Redskins and Ravens are set to face off in Week 4 of the 2020 NFL season. They'll also play in the preseason.

The workout comes at a time where players are not supposed to be organizing private sessions with each other amid the coronavirus pandemic. The NFLPA recently released a statement advising against such actions

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Ravens training camp preview: How the Ravens can maximize their backfield touches

Ravens training camp preview: How the Ravens can maximize their backfield touches

Rostered running backs/fullbacks: Mark Ingram, J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill, Patrick Ricard, Bronson Rechsteiner

Last season, the Ravens were one of the most efficient offensive teams in the NFL. The trick, however, was that they did a majority of their work with their backfield. 

The Ravens rushed for a league-record 3,296 yards as a team on 596 carries, good for the most yards ever gained on the ground by an offense. They ran for 206 yards-per-game on 5.5 yards per carry, all the best figures in the NFL by a wide margin. 

But what made the Ravens’ offense unique was not just that they ran the ball well, but how it made the offense tick. 

According to Pro Football Reference, the Ravens’ earned 100.56 expected points contributed by the ground game — a figure used to estimate the expected point value of a run play based on yardage gained, down, distance and field position. The next best team in the NFL was the Cowboys with 37.08 expected points. Compare that to the passing attack, where the Ravens’ 100.56 figure would’ve placed them 13th in the NFL — in the passing category. 

Essentially, the Ravens ran the ball as well and as efficiently as a slightly above average passing attack in the NFL. And as mounds and mounds of data continue to suggest passing the football is far more conducive to success than the outdated and antiquated rushing styles of ground and pound football, the Ravens turned the league on its head with a deep and talented host of backfield standouts. 

Naturally, the Ravens added to that crop and drafted Ohio State phenom J.K. Dobbins with the 55th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to pair with Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill. 

The question now, however, is who gets the touches, when they do so and how they do. 

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Ingram, the team’s workhorse last season, had 202 rush attempts and ran for five yards-per-carry. Edwards spelled Ingram and ran the ball 133 times. Hill saw the field the least out of the three and had just 58 carries in 16 games. Both Edwards and Ingram earned five yards or more per carry.

Patrick Ricard, the team’s fullback and defensive lineman who made his first Pro Bowl in 2019, didn’t record a carry and only was targeted 11 times in the passing game. Essentially, Ricard was there to plow the way for the league’s best backfield. But while his value to the team last year wasn't necessarily prevalent, it shouldn't go understated. 

The backfield wouldn’t have been what it was, though, without the absurdity of Lamar Jackson’s MVP season. Jackson rushed for a quarterback record 1,206 yards on 176 carries last season. His ability to freeze linebackers and edge rushers allowed the Ravens’ running backs to have wide-open lanes all season long and created mismatches few defensive teams are equipped to handle.

Now, with Jackson envisioning himself running less than he did a year ago, a greater emphasis will be placed on the running backs to handle a bigger load both on the ground and catching passes out of the backfield. 

While Ingram was highly efficient catching passes last season (he had 26 receptions and five touchdowns), none of the team’s backs — including Dobbins at Ohio State — were true pass-catching threats. Unless one of them takes a step forward in that regard, the snaps at the running back position could vary week-to-week, dependent upon matchups and scheme. 

Of course, the Ravens have a decision to make as to how many running backs they’d like to keep. Last year, they had three on the roster for the duration of the season. This year, they might not have that luxury. 

Baltimore could make up the roster spot it had last season by only carrying two quarterbacks instead of three, or it could look to trade Edwards or Hill in training camp should an injury occur elsewhere in the league. The trade compensation, however, likely wouldn’t net the team much in return and the two backs could be more valuable on the roster than not.

If the Ravens keep all four, they’ll have to find out what works best for the offense: Feeding a one-two punch backfield, or a running back by committee system.

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Last year, Ingram averaged 13.5 carries, Jackson averaged 11.7 and Edwards averaged 8.3. As a team, they averaged 37.3 per game. 

Should the Ravens decide to operate like they did last season with that trio, or any trio, earning 89.8 percent of the team’s carries, how hard Dobbins’ transition is to the NFL could determine whether or not he supplants Edwards, Ingram or even Jackson in the gameplan each week. But it's important to note his selection at 55th overall — the Ravens didn't draft him to sit on the bench. In any scenario, Dobbins should be included in the conversation.

And as the season wears on, it’s possible Dobbins and Edwards slowly handle more of the reps to keep Ingram, now 30-years-old, fresh for a late-season push. With 1,777 NFL touches under his belt, Ingram is on the wrong side of the age curve — especially for running backs.

That conversation still leaves out Hill, who in a limited role last season, showed flashes of why the Ravens drafted him in the fourth round of the 2019 draft with his speed and acceleration. If the Ravens want to get as much speed on the field as possible, Hill is likely the answer. 

All of that is to say the Ravens have options as to how they’d like to attack the ground game. While they’ve expressed a desire to throw more in 2020, they’re certainly not going to abandon the run game altogether. With the talented host of running backs the team has, it’s one of the highest floor positions on the roster.

And compared to the rest of the league, their talented rushing attack is far more than simply average.

Of the 32 teams in the NFL last season, 22 of them had negative expected points contributed by the run game. The league average was -11.1 points and the last-place team, the Steelers, posted a number 165 points behind the Ravens: -64.88.

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Four Ravens that could have a breakout season in 2020

Four Ravens that could have a breakout season in 2020

The Ravens 14-2 season last year was, statistically, one of the best offensive seasons in NFL history. The regular season win-loss record was the best in franchise history and, frankly, there’s really only room to go down — on paper — for the Ravens in 2020. 

But individually, there are a few players that could take a big step forward this upcoming season. Here are four players who are going a bit under the radar that could impress.

EDGE, Jaylon Ferguson

Ferguson might be the player on this list the Ravens would benefit the most from getting a breakout season from. 

As the team’s No. 2 pass-rusher last season, he played in 14 games (nine starts) and had 2.5 sacks. He made 31 combined tackles and had nine quarterback hits. 

Now with Matthew Judon playing under the franchise tag, a productive season would give the Ravens a legitimate second pass-rusher off the edge to compliment Judon on the other side. His potential increase in production isn’t just based on Ferguson’s development from year-to-year, either. 

The Ravens made vast improvements to the front seven over the offseason and added veterans  Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe, as well as rookies Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington. With an improved interior rush, Ferguson could reap the benefits and have a breakout second season. 

If he does, not only will the Ravens have one of the best secondaries in the NFL, they’ll have one of the best defensive fronts, too.

WR, Miles Boykin

Boykin is maybe the easiest answer on this list. Not only does Boykin expect to have a breakout season, the Ravens expect him to as well. 

But it won’t come easy for the second-year, 6-foot-4 wideout. 

He had just 13 catches for 198 yards and three touchdowns last season, which placed him eighth on the team in targets and receptions. Just two players ahead of him on the list, Hayden Hurst and Seth Roberts, departed in the offseason. 

The Ravens also added wide receivers Devin Duvernay and James Proche in the third and sixth rounds, respectively, in April’s draft and then drafted running back J.K. Dobbins in the second round. Simply, there might not be a lot of targets to go around. 

And, with Marquise Brown now healthy in his second season, Boykin will have serious competition for targets in a monster year for his career outlook in Baltimore. 

ILB, Patrick Queen

Queen is the likeliest rookie to break out on the Ravens, and for good reason. 

He was the team’s first pick at 28th overall, at the biggest position of need on the roster. He’ll be handed an immediate starting spot and will play behind three big defensive linemen in Brandon Williams, Campbell and Wolfe. 

Defensively, the Ravens ranked 20th in the NFL in yards-per-carry (4.4) and 21st in sacks (37) last year, both numbers which should improve in the 2020 season. Queen should be the one to reap the benefits of that immediately. 

With a defensive line that’s vastly improved from a year ago, Queen — a three-down linebacker — should boost the Ravens’ front seven both in the run and pass game.

RB, J.K. Dobbins

Dobbins requires a bit of an exception to make this list. 

His 2019 season at Ohio State was one of the best in Buckeyes’ history. He had 301 carries for 2,003 yards (6.7 yards per carry) and scored 21 rushing touchdowns. But while his time at Ohio State screamed immediate starter in the NFL, he was drafted by one of the few teams in the league where that’s not abundantly clear. 

He’ll join the depth chart behind Mark Ingram and with Gus Edwards and Justice Hill to compete for touches out of the backfield. That’s no easy task for the Ravens to manage. 

If, however, the Ravens manage the backfield’s touches successfully, there’s an opening for Dobbins to seize a bigger role in the backfield than some might expect. 

Make no mistake, the Ravens didn’t spend the 55th overall pick on a player to sit him on the bench. As to how much he’ll see the field depends on both Ingram’s play and Dobbins’ development, though. 

But if Ingram, who had 1,018 yards last season on 202 carries, doesn’t see the ball as much, there’s an easy path to being a prominent figure in the Ravens’ backfield.

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