A recent quote from Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman that the team "is going to use all of its running backs" has some concerned about the workload for J.K. Dobbins. If Baltimore is using a three-back committee with Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, it would be hard for Dobbins to put up great numbers. If such quotes cause Dobbins to slip in drafts, good.
If the Roman quote sounds familiar, it should -- the Ravens said virtually the same thing one year ago, when discussing their four running backs: Mark Ingram, Edwards, Dobbins and Hill. John Harbaugh said he envisioned roles for all four backs, elaborating "Is that really a problem to have four guys breaking off big runs and making guys miss? There's roles there for those guys."
How did that work out? Let's take a look.
The below table shows the actual week-by-week contributions in terms of carries for each of the four running backs last year. (I left out receptions, but they can be quickly summarized: Dobbins caught 18 passes, Edwards 9, Ingram 6 and Hill 5. That's 38 combined catches in 54 combined games, so none had a huge role in that area.)
|BALTIMORE RB CARRIES, 2020|
Justice Hill had 12 carries all season, 9 of which came when both Ingram and Dobbins were on the COVID-IR list. When Harbaugh said he envisioned a role for Hill, that role was Special Teams.
Ingram had 72 carries, two-thirds of which (45) came in the first five weeks of the season. After that he barely played, and was a healthy scratch both down the stretch and in the playoffs. Ingram's removal from the offense did not lead to more carries for a third back; Justice Hill continued to play special teams. Once Ingram was gone, it was a two-back committee. Ingram's role, then, was to start only until the team was comfortable putting more on its rookie's plate, and then be phased out of the offense.
Dobbins and Edwards finished with a similar number of carries, so fair to look at that as a two-back committee. In games both were available from Week 10 on, Dobbins outcarried Edwards 96-71. On the season, he averaged a yard more per attempt (6.0 to 5.0) and outscored him 9-6.
So I don't care much what kind of attaboy talk Harbaugh or Roman chuck out there in the next few months regarding Justice Hill or undrafted rookie Nate McCrary. This is a team that's going to run the ball a ton and funnel it through just 2 running backs: Dobbins and Edwards. Maybe it's a 70-30 or even 60-40 split, and of course there's Lamar Jackson running plenty too. But if other drafters are concerned about Dobbins' workload, I'll take the discount.