How do the Ravens Replace JK Dobbins?

The injury to Dobbins overshadowed a record-setting win.  The Ravens now need to deal with the aftermath.

Here is what I expect the Ravens to do:

  • The coaches will decide what components of the offense required Dobbins as opposed to another back
  • In terms of which backs are ideal to sign, they will want:
    • Complementary skills to their top 2 backs
    • Fit to scheme (speed, pass blocker/pass catcher, ability to cut, special teams ability, etc)
    • Limited treadwear so they are not buying into production decline
    • Future value (ideally the back obtained will not be simply a 1-year solution, but a 1st-contract player)

In short, although this is a 1-year problem, the Ravens will address it with a multi-year solution.

OL Usage by Series

The most significant indication of roster decisions during the preseason is the order of entry.

Here are the offensive linemen by series, something that often tells a story about the team’s plans:

DrivePlaysNet YardsResultQBeg TimeLTLGCRGRT
11165FG Miss113:33StanleyPowersBozemanZeitlerVillanueva

Notes on the OL rotation:

  • The Ravens had what appears to be their week-1 starters together for the first series with Lamar Jackson and drove the ball 65 yards on 11 plays.
  • Stanley had nice push on LB Mayo in L2 (Q1, 11:06).  It was good to see him get into space to make a block in his brief trial.
  • Bozeman had 4 blocks that made my notes (all positive) in just 1 series (Q1, 13:33; Q1, 12:54; Q1, 11:06; Q1, 10:17).  He’s ready to go and if the physicality and movement from this game is a good indicator, he’ll be effective at center.
  • Kevin Zeitler had 2 weak pass blocks among 6 opportunities.  He was bulled by DT Tim Settle for the initial pressure on what would become Rotimi’s strip sack.  I am convinced this offensive scheme is both easier for him than any in which he’s previously played and a good fit for his skillset.  If he can play the full year, he’s a good bet for a Pro Bowl.
  • Villanueva didn’t make my notes and retired after 1 series.
  • Powers sealed DT Settle on Edwards’ RR21 (Q2, 10:17).  He connected on a pull vs DB Jeremy Reaves as Williams found the edge for RR22 (Q1, 3:53).  This was a 2nd consecutive physical effort from Powers.  I dislike the notion that he fell face first into this job.  While it’s true Phillips has not played well enough to beat him out and Cleveland has missed a lot of camp and preseason, Powers has had consecutive exceptional games at LG after a poor opener where a lot of his difficulties were at RT.  He’ll be fine to start the season and the Ravens have a good backup ready to go.
  • Phillips was bulled for pressure by Wise (Q1, 4:28) and again by DT Bada (Q2, 13:11).  He missed his pull on CB Roberts which was part of a Keystone Cops play which resulted in McCrary’s RR-4.  The Ravens may decide to have Phillips practice at RT from here on with Cleveland apparently healthy.
  • Cleveland got his first extended playing time and was excellent (see scoring below).  Guards often end up patrolling a gap without an assignment on pass plays, particularly vs a 4-man rush.  That seems even more pronounced with Cleveland, who no one seems to want to engage as a pass blocker.  I don’t believe teams will be able to control rush lanes during the season if they take this tack, because Cleveland throws some devastating help blocks for either the C or LT and has lots of experience from Georgia processing such situations.  The possibility of gaping holes in pass rush lanes may either dictate defenses use a spy or create more scramble opportunities for Jackson..
  • Mekari played the 2nd series at RG and then 2 more at LT.  It’s been a difficult preseason for Patrick.  He’s played mostly LT and has not been effective there.  Given the relative quality of Schofield’s play and the depth at G, the Ravens may decide they only need to keep 1 of Colon and Mekari.
  • Colon had an extended trial at C, looked solid, and on-target with his snaps.  I think he may be first up at C if something happens to Bozeman.
  • Bredeson played 5 series at RG and the last 3 at C, a good omen for his future with the Ravens.  He’s a 2nd-year player in competition with Mekari (year 3) and Colon (year 2) for 1 or 2 roster spots.  I have him for 1 negative and 3 positive run notes, but nothing as a pass blocker (no news is good news). 
  • Schofield entered on the 2nd drive and played 68 scored snaps (see scoring below), including 2 series at RT and the rest at LT.  The sort of pressures he allowed in this game are ones often given up by Stanley where he gives ground to continue to mirror the pass rusher.  That often results in a late pressure and one Jackson can escape with his legs.  It’s a much more serious error to let the QB get hit to disrupt the throw as he did once.  Despite a modest grade, I think he remains the Ravens best choice as the backup LT.  As a veteran, he can be released on Wednesday and resigned the next day once the IR shuffle is complete.
  • Adrian Ealy played the final 3 series.  I scored his 18 snaps (see below), even though that does not meet my normal 20-snap minimum for a grade.  He’s a developmental player who might be worth stashing on IR for the entire season.  If the Ravens try to put him on the practice squad he might not draw a waiver claim, but as OT depth erodes during the season, he’d be a player that other teams target.
  • Sarell played the second half at RT and RG.  He’s a candidate for the practice squad.
  • Mancz was traded this week.  That was a nice dividend from having the OL back to full health.

After a week of responsibilities focus with just 1 OL position per player, the Ravens returned to having players audition at multiple spots.  In total, 5 linemen saw work at more than 1 position. 

Individual Grades and Notes

As in past years, I have given each Ravens player a grade from +3 to -3 reflecting how much my expectation of their impact on this year’s team changed based on their performance (game grade before the front slash, cumulative grade after).  I don’t rate starters, players who have no place on the team, or anyone for whom I don’t think I have any data for a judgment.  The players here are new to the team, rookies, on the cusp of making the team, have new responsibilities this season, in positional battles, or have otherwise have something to prove.

Bateman (0/0):  DNP.  I presume he’ll make the cut then be placed on IR after 24 hours, which essentially provides the Ravens with an extra player on the roster with the 3-week IR rules again this season.

Boykin (0/0):  DNP.  I still expect him to make the roster and possibly start the season on IR.  Incredibly, the Ravens top 3 X receivers are hurt.

Bozeman (0/0):  See notes above.  As the starting center, he did not require expectation grades this preseason.  He looks the part and has been on target with his snaps for the most part in camp and preseason games.

Bredeson (0/0):  See notes above. 

Cain (-1/-1): He returned and was open for some big plays, but ended up catching just 1 of 5 balls for 5 yards.  He may land on the practice squad.

Cleveland (+2/+1): He saw his first action and did not disappoint. He did not allow a pass rush event or otherwise log a negative play.  He missed 4 blocks, 3 of which were losses at the LoS.  He made 7 blocks in level 2, delivered 1 pancake, and connected on 2 of 3 pulls.  He had 5 highlights, including 3 on the final drive (Q4, 8:18; Q4, 4:05; Q4, 2:33) for which context is a legitimate question.  However, we may have been treated to a preview of the manner in which tired defenders will get bullied by him.   

Scoring:  38 plays, 34 blocks, 4 missed, 30 points (.90 per play).  That’s an A with adjustment.

Colon (0/+1):  See notes above.

Ealy (0/+1):  He played the last 3 drives, beginning late in the 3rd quarter.  He was bulled by DE Rotimi for a pressure shared with Sarell (Q4, 4:49).  Of his 4 misses, 3 were losses at the LoS.  He made 1 block in level 2, delivered 1 pancake, and was not asked to pull.  He had 3 highlights, including 2 on the final drive (Q3, 2:24; Q4, 8:18; Q4, 7:35).

Scoring:  18 plays, 13 blocks, 4 missed, ½ pressure, 12 points (.67 per play).  That’s below the 20-snap minimum I use for grading, but would have fallen on the C-/D+ border.

Gray (0/0):  He caught a 16-yard pass among 19 snaps and 3 targets.

Hill (0/-3):  DNP.  He may have gained ground with Dobbins’ injury, but it also seems as if the Ravens will be looking outside for more RBs.  He remains a valuable special teams player and could still make the team.

Huntley (+3/+6):  Not everything is perfect about his ball placement, but we saw perhaps the greatest preseason game ever by a Ravens QB.  He did not commit a costly error, protected the football as a runner, looked good with what was outstanding time to throw, and completed some nice balls while under pressure.

Mariner (0/0):  He played 8 snaps, fewest in a thin WR corps.

Mason (0/+1):  He played 35 snaps and had 5 carries, including 3 first downs.  I recorded him twice for positive blocking notes as well.  He’s an odd combination of a player for whom the Ravens:

  1. See specific value in their offense
  2. Want insurance value in 2021
  3. Want the future upside
  4. May still not have a roster spot

Due to the low number of fullbacks around the NFL and further migration from 21 to 12 personnel, there also aren’t many other teams who are likely to want him.  If he could be retained on the practice squad, he provides the Ravens an extra component of roster flexibility that could be valuable.

McCrary (+1/+1):  He was injured and appeared to ask out of the game a little later, but was told to stay in.  His running stats were depressed by being the ballcarrier when everyone knew the Ravens were going to run.  I like his bounce and he’s had several runs where he showed the ability to change direction as a play breaks down.  He will probably land on the practice squad.

McSorley (0/-2):  DNP.  He is reportedly practicing again Monday and should have a spot on the practice squad.

Mekari (0/-1):  See notes above.  With the entire line healthy, I’m less sure he has a roster spot sealed than before.  His value as a backup G/C is limited by the fact the Ravens have 2 younger players (Bredeson, Colon) who play the same positions.

Moore, Jaylon (0/0):  He played 23 snaps and was not targeted. 

Oliver (0/0): It was nice to see him have a couple of longer targets, including a 13-yard reception (Q2, 2:00) and a bomb between the hashes which was slightly overthrown.  He’s made the team, but I have yet to be particularly impressed with him as a receiver.  We’ll see how he meshes with Jackson on play action come week 1.

Phillips (0/-2):  See notes above.  He’s gone from being a competitor for the LG starting spot to a backup RT.  Since it seems he’s 3rd on the LG depth chart and no better than 2nd at RG, it’s unlikely he’ll see time at guard in 2021.  With the team thin at tackle, the Ravens may have him practice there until he is needed.

Poljan (0/0):  He entered for the last 3 series and played 14 snaps without a target.  He made my notes just once when pancaked by LB Jordan Kunaszyk (Q4, 8:18).  He’s raw, but could be a useful player for the practice squad.

Powers (+2/+3):  See notes above.  Between Powers and Cleveland, the Ravens have 2 good options at LG.

Proche (+2/+2):  This was the game we’ve been waiting for to corroborate Proche’s practice results with live-fire success.  His highlights warrant individual review:

  • (Q1, 2:31):  He collected the deflection by DT Gabe Wright for PM7
  • (Q2, 13:11):  He reached back to grab Huntley’s pass and still managed 6 YAC on PM17 (11 + 6) [2]
  • (Q2, 8:01):  He blocked CB Jimmy Moreland in L2 to help lead Williams RL12
  • (Q3, 10:00):  On 3rd/4, he snatched PL20 TD with CB Roberts’ arm between his hands, maintained control of the football to the ground, and lost his helmet

Taking the ball away from CB Roberts reminded me of Anquan Boldin’s vice-like grip on the football on 3rd and 1 in Super Bowl XLVII.  It’s amazing he did not erupt for a taunting foul after losing his helmet.

Sarell (0/0):  See notes above.

Schofield (-1/+2):  He struggled with the bull rush from DEs Bunmi Rotimi and Shaka Toney.  Michael surrendered a total of 7 full pressures as I scored it (Q2, 9:19; Q2, 8:41; Q2, 1:23; Q3, 12:27; Q3, 10:00; Q4, 11:46; Q4, 11:03).  This differs from other published sources because I use a 3-second standard (PFF uses 2.5).  The only really bad pass rush event he surrendered disrupted Huntley’s throw into a lazy popup (Q4, 11:03).  Of 3 missed blocks, 2 were losses at the LoS and a 3rd was L2NB.  In stark contrast to the Panthers game, he made 11 blocks in level 2 and delivered 1 pancake.  His highlight was a combination block to tee up DT David Bada for Cleveland followed by a L2 block on CB Cole Luke (Q3, 13:07).

Scoring:  68 plays, 58 blocks, 3 missed, 7 pressure, 44 points (.65 per play).  That’s a D+ after adjustment.  It wasn’t a game Schofield will want to show his grandkids, but as mentioned above the pressures he allowed were low risk for a mobile QB.  

Tomlinson (+1/+2):  For the second straight game he showed his chops as a receiver, including the 8-yard TD on an extended play from Huntley (Q2, 7:19).  It’s good to see any receiver find space for a QB under pressure, but it’s especially nice to see it happen with Tomlinson who has so infrequently been targeted. I have 1 positive and 1 negative note for him as a run blocker.

Verity (-2/-1):  The misses effectively eliminate any chance Verity will be traded for a draft pick.  There is still a hance he catches on somewhere.

Victor (+2/+2):  He caught all 5 balls thrown his way and in so doing touched a lot of bases as a receiver.  Let’s review:

  • (Q1, 4:28):  He caught a three-yard pass between the right hash and numbers and took it for 27 YAC
  • (Q2, 3:11):  He showed spatial awareness to collect PM6 (4 + 2) [4] to convert 3rd/4
  • (Q2, 1:23):  He high-pointed PL25 TD [1] contested by S Troy Apke and maintained possession to the ground
  • (Q3, 6:24):  He high-pointed PL11 (11 + 0) [1] and neatly tapped his toes inbounds
  • (Q3, 4:37):  On 3rd/10, he caught PM13 (13 + 0) [2] and absorbed a helmet hit from DB Jeremy Reaves (unflagged)

If one had to create a set of WR drills for a workout, you’d want to include some form of each of these (excluding the helmet-to-helmet hit).

Wallace (+1/+2):  He caught all 3 passes thrown his way and played 57 snaps, most of any Ravens WR.  Roman got him out of his comfort zone to make 2 receptions in the middle of the field in a 4-play sequence (beginning Q3, 7:20).  All 4 of his targets vs the Panthers and most of his college receptions were outside the right hash.  The touchdown (Q3, 4:19) was making space on a rollout which should serve him well as a red-zone target for Lamar Jackson.  

Williams, Ty’Son (+2/+4):  Williams had made the team prior to this game, but now figures to be active every week and have a significant workload.  Against Washington, he ran the ball effectively (4 for 42) and made 3 big blocks:

  • (Q1, 4:28):  He maintained a block on LB David Mayo to help Victor pick up 27 YAC
  • (Q1, 1:17):  He made the key block on LB Khaleke Hudson to lead Huntley’s RR10 TD
  • (Q2, 7:19):  He delivered an ideal cut block to create ATS on what would eventually become the 8-yard TD pass to Tomlinson

In a college career spanning 5 years and 3 schools he had 29 receptions for 231 yards.  This preseason he caught all 8 targets, but for just 37 yards (4.6 YPT).

Offensive MVPs:

  1. Tyler Huntley
  2. Binjimen Victor
  3. Ty’Son Williams

Honorable mention to James Proche, Ben Cleveland, and Ben Powers.