Sophomore Superstars: J.K. Dobbins
After discussing the two quarterbacks who I believe will have breakout sophomore seasons, I'll turn my attention to the running backs. I'll start with the Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins who was a big part of the timeshare in the Ravens backfield. Between Lamar Jackson, Gus Edwards, and Mark Ingram, it was hard for J.K. to truly breakthrough and get significant touches consistently throughout the season.
First, let's dive into Dobbins 2020 season.
134 carries 18 receptions
805 yards (6.0 yards per attempt) 120 yards (6.7 yards per reception)
9 touchdowns 2 fumbles
Dobbins also had 20 "explosive" runs (runs of 10+ yards) and 8 runs of 20+ yards so he was very explosive with his ability to break off some big plays. The most impressive stat from Dobbins was the yards per attempt where he averaged 6.0 yards which was 3rd in the league behind his teammate Lamar Jackson and Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray. Dobbins was able to put up these numbers with Mark Ingram taking 76 touches, Gus Edwards taking 144 touches, and Lamar Jackson taking 159 rushing attempts. This is a run-first team with Lamar under center and it should continue to be centered around the run, but with the additions of Sammy Watkins and Rashod Bateman, the Ravens may be able to shift slightly more to passing the ball but that would open up the run game even more than it already is. With that being said this team is built to run the ball.
Now I'll look into why I believe Dobbins is in for a breakout season this year:
When looking at the Raven's rushing attack the past few seasons they have averaged 566 rushes (35.3 rushes per game) and 21.3 touchdowns per season over the past 3 seasons. Now expanding to a 17 game season we can expect the Ravens to run the ball at least 600 times if they continue to run the ball the way they have the past 3 seasons.
Building off of that, we'll look into the number of touches we can expect Dobbins to receive and go from there. Looking at the past 3 seasons again, both Lamar Jackson and Gus Edwards have been consistent threats in the run game where Jackson has averaged 10 rushes per game over that span while Edwards has averaged just under 9 total touches per game which includes his involvement in the passing game. Edwards has never received more than 153 touches over a season and considering the Ravens resigned him to a 2-year deal, I'd expect him to continue to play a similar role. So between them, they take about 19 touches a game leaving an average of 15 carries per game for someone else to take. That someone else is J.K. Dobbins.
From week 9 on, Dobbins received 13 touches per game and ran for 60+ yards in 5 of his 7 games, missing week 17. I see Dobbins receiving a similar workload with a slight uptick to about 15+ carries a game with his efficiency dropping slightly to anywhere from 5.0-5.5 yards per carry simply because a 6.0 yards per carry mark is next to impossibly to repeat. With Lamar always being a threat in the running game, it helps his backs be much more efficient on top of Dobbins having one of the highest attempts of missed tackles per rush at 27%.
One area where I don't see Dobbins taking much of a step forward is in the passing game. Lamar Jackson only targeted his running backs 45 times last season and with the additions, the Ravens brought in at receiver, I don't see that number going up so I could see Dobbins maybe getting 25 receptions, but that would be a slight increase compared to last season where he brought in 18 receptions.
Last, Dobbins was fantastic in the red zone, some of the success due to defenses having to worry about Lamar Jackson, and I see no reason why this success will not continue when Dobbins steps into a full-time role for a full season.
Final Stat Line Predictions (over 17 games):
Rush Yards: 1,100-1,300 (5.0-5.5 yards per carry)
The bottom line is that Dobbins will receive the most carries out of every player in this backfield and considering how efficient the Ravens running backs have been, I don't see that changing. The best-case scenario for Dobbins would be to not only see his carries increase but to also see his involvement in the passing game increase significantly because he does possess the talent to do so, it's just a matter of if the scheme and Lamar Jackson will give him those opportunities in the passing game.