Justice Hill

RBs A Priority For Ravens In Offseason

We noted something similar back in February, but the Ravens have made it clear lately that additions to the running backs group will be a priority in the offseason. Whether that comes through re-signing expiring deals, signing veteran free agents, or pursuing a rookie prospect, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic’s quote from general manager Eric DeCosta says it best: (they) need more than two running backs.

The Ravens have lots of work to do in the coming weeks with expiring contracts all over their 2023 roster, but DeCosta is fully aware of which potential departures leave them most bare. Both former undrafted veteran Gus Edwards and former second-round pick J.K. Dobbins are set to hit free agency this spring, as will late-season addition Dalvin Cook and practice squad backs Melvin Gordon and Owen Wright, though Wright, an undrafted rookie, has signed a futures deal with the team. That leaves only Justice Hill and another undrafted rookie in Keaton Mitchell as the only two running backs with in-game experience on the roster moving forward.

Hill signed a two-year deal a year ago and will now play out the final season of that contract. He had the best season of his career in 2023 but has still failed to surpass 400 rushing yards or 4 touchdowns in a season. He expanded his role this year by adding 206 receiving yards. Mitchell was a pleasant surprise as a rookie, touting an outstanding 8.43 yards per carry average in eight games played. The diminutive back flashed elite speed and play-making ability when healthy, but a torn ACL midway through December leaves the team without their explosive second-year player for likely the entire offseason.

In our previous discussion on the subject, we laid out the cases for Dobbins and Edwards. Dobbins showed incredible upside as a rookie but has since struggled mightily to stay on the field. Edwards had been a reliable short-yardage and goal-line back in the early days of Jackson’s career, backing up Mark Ingram before teaming up with Dobbins and Hill. The big-bodied back with the nickname “Gus the Bus” has six years under his belt but showed no signs of slowing with a career-high 990 scrimmage yards and 13 rushing touchdowns this season. At the NFL scouting combine DeCosta made it known that the organization has not shut the door on the idea of bringing the two back. In fact, DeCosta claimed the team was “hopeful (they) can get something done with those guys,” per Ravens staff writers Clifton Brown and Ryan Mink.

We also explored the idea of free agency in our previous post. There are a number of big names hitting the open market this offseason, and Baltimore has already been connected to a few. Titans bell-cow Derrick Henry has been linked to the team since the days of the trade deadline. Other notable names like the Giants’ Saquon Barkley, the Raiders’ Josh Jacobs, and the Cowboys’ Tony Pollard have been mentioned, as well.

In the draft, there a couple intriguing names to look at like Michigan rusher Blake Corum or Texas running back Jonathon Brooks, but Wisconsin’s Braelon Allen is a name that has been making the rounds in Baltimore. If the team fails to sign any of the above veterans, expect the Ravens to pursue one of these players early in the draft. If a big name puts pen to paper, though, Baltimore will likely be content to take a late-round addition or even peruse the undrafted dregs once again.

Regardless, additions are going to be necessary in 2024. Especially with Mitchell coming back from a serious injury, the team can’t well expect to find success with only him, Hill, and Wright heading into the 2024 NFL season. Whether they bring back Edwards or Dobbins, sign a big-name in free agency like Henry or Barkley, or draft a high-end prospect, somebody will have to join the three currently in the running backs room.

Latest On Ravens’ Backfield Injuries

The Ravens are dealing with injuries throughout their offense, with wideouts Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman having already been ruled out for tomorrow’s game against the Browns (via ESPN’s Adam Schefter). While Baltimore’s receiving corps may be in doubt, the team did get some good news regarding their running back depth.

Justice Hill is expected to play on Sunday against Cleveland, per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. A toe injury kept Hill off the field for last weekend’s loss to the Colts.

The Ravens were really forced to dig into their running back depth against Indy. J.K. Dobbins, of course, has been ruled out for the season, and with Hill missing the contest, the Ravens were expected to lean heavily on Gus Edwards. However, the veteran suffered a concussion during that contest, and the Ravens ended up giving Melvin Gordon and Kenyan Drake a combined 40 snaps.

While Fowler notes that Gordon is still expected to be called up from the practice squad for Baltimore’s Week 4 game, it sounds like the team should be able to roll with their top-two options at the position. Edwards returned to practice this week, an indication that he’s cleared concussion protocol and should be good to go for this weekend.

With Hill also expected back, it will be interesting to see how the Ravens divvy up the RB snaps. Hill outsnapped Edwards when the two played alongside each other in Week 2 (43 to 32), and Hill also got more snaps when Dobbins went down during Week 1.

NFL Injury Updates: Carr, Kupp, Beckham

After taking a big shot to his throwing shoulder in a Week 3 loss to the Packers, Saints quarterback Derek Carr is reportedly unlikely to appear when New Orleans plays host to the Buccaneers this Sunday, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. Backup quarterback Jameis Winston is set to start in his place.

Carr wasn’t necessarily struggling in his debut season playing for any team other than the Raiders, but he wasn’t striving either. After winning the first two games of the season, Carr was only averaging 266.5 passing yards per game with one touchdown and two interceptions. Protection had been a bit of an issue as he had been sacked four times in each of his first two starts with the Saints. This past weekend, that questionable protection led to the shoulder injury that’s expected to hold him out of this week’s game.

Winston will now, once again, take the reins of the Saints’ offense. Over four years with the team, Winston has appeared in 15 games: five coming off the bench and 10 as a starter. In his first season as a full-time starter in New Orleans, Winston started the season 5-2 while throwing 14 touchdowns and only three interceptions before a torn ACL would end his 2021 season early. Last year, Winston started three games despite reports of fractures in his back and went 1-2 with four touchdowns and five interceptions before spending the rest of the season as QB2 behind Andy Dalton.

Winston will get his chance to prove he can still be an effective starter in the NFL this weekend while Carr recovers. According to Nick Underhill of neworleans.football, no consideration has taken place in respect to moving hybrid tight end Taysom Hill to quarterback this week.

Here are some other injury updates from around the league:

  • ESPN’s Sarah Barshop provided an update today on the recovery timeline of Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp. She reported that head coach Sean McVay told the media that it is “the hope” that Kupp will be able to come off of injured reserve as soon as he is eligible to in Week 5. Kupp has missed the first three games of the season due to a hamstring injury and will have to miss this weekend, too, due to his stint on IR. McVay was hesitant to make any promises that might pigeonhole his All-Pro wideout, but the update is surely encouraging news for the Rams’ offense.
  • The injury woes will continue a little longer for Ravens wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. as ESPN’s Dan Graziano tells us that Beckham is likely to miss “another game or two” with the ankle injury that’s dogged him since the offseason. While Baltimore’s offense will have to do without Beckham, Graziano reports that running back Justice Hill has a chance to return this week from the toe injury that held him out of last week’s loss.

Ravens Work Out Ronald Jones, James Robinson; Team Signs Kenyan Drake

11:38am: Following this workout, the Ravens decided to reunite with Drake. The veteran running back will return to Baltimore on a practice squad deal, NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero tweets. This will continue a partnership that began last season and give the Ravens considerable RB experience on their taxi squad, with Drake and Gordon part of the unit.

9:50am: Down J.K. Dobbins yet again, the Ravens used a Gus EdwardsJustice Hill backfield combination in Week 2. But the team is looking into an outside addition at the position. A running back workout will commence in Baltimore today.

The Ravens are bringing in Kenyan Drake, Ronald Jones and James Robinson for a Wednesday audition, The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec tweets. Each of these players was a recent cut. The Cowboys released Jones this week, rather than activate him after a two-game suspension, while the Patriots and Giants have waived Robinson this year. Drake, who spent last season in Baltimore, did not stick as Jonathan Taylor insurance in Indianapolis.

As of Wednesday, Edwards and Hill are the only running backs on the Ravens’ 53-man roster. Hill is also battling a toe injury that could keep him out in Week 3. The team does have Melvin Gordon on its practice squad, with rookie UDFA Owen Wright joining the ninth-year veteran. While Gordon joined the Ravens this summer, he has not played in either of their two games. Despite Dobbins going down with an Achilles tear, Gordon was not in uniform in Week 2. Edwards and Hill split the carries against the Bengals. While the team was initially not believed to be interested in an outside RB addition, Hill’s issue has changed that thinking.

Drake, 29, helped an injury-depleted Ravens backfield last season. With Dobbins going back on IR and Edwards remaining on the reserve/PUP list well into the season, Drake led the way in filling in. He averaged 4.4 yards per carry and finished with two 90-yard performances, including a 119-yard game against the Giants. The Ravens used Drake, whom the Raiders released late last summer, as their Week 1 starter.

The Colts added Drake after an August workout, and although they were grappling with Taylor’s trade request at that point, the seven-year veteran did not land on their 53-man roster. Drake has spent time with the Dolphins, Cardinals and Raiders. His 1,083 career touches outpace Robinson and Jones.

Injury trouble stalled Robinson’s ascent. Near the end of a second straight productive season in Jacksonville, Robinson suffered an Achilles tear. The Division I-FCS product, who set a rookie UDFA record with 1,414 yards (in only 14 games) with the 2020 Jaguars, was then traded midway through last season. Robinson, 25, did not play a notable role with the Jets, and both the Patriots and Giants waived him this offseason.

Although Jones has two Super Bowl rings now, he has seen other backs do the heavy lifting for those teams. The former second-round pick led the 2020 Buccaneers in rushing (978 yards), but Leonard Fournette moved into position as their primary back during the playoffs. Fournette then took over as Tampa Bay’s starter in 2021. Robinson, 26, has not come close to matching that 2020 showing since. The Chiefs did not use him much during their most recent Super Bowl-winning campaign; Jones took just 17 handoffs last season. He incurred a two-game PED ban in July, and the Cowboys prioritized their less experienced backs over creating a roster spot once the suspension ended.

Ravens Not Looking Externally For RB Help

The Ravens were forced to swallow a heavy pill when starting running back J.K. Dobbins suffered a torn Achilles tendon during the team’s win over the Texans this weekend. For solutions, many thought to look at the free agent or trade market, both of which are ripe with talented veterans, but head coach John Harbaugh said today that Baltimore will not be looking externally for running back help, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN.

With options like Kareem Hunt and Leonard Fournette in free agency and a player like Jonathan Taylor reportedly available via trade, no one would blame Harbaugh and company for bringing in an experienced starter to tote the rock. Instead, the Ravens feel confident in the options they have in-house to take over with Harbaugh even indicating that they will be operating with a committee in the backfield.

When Dobbins exited Sunday’s game, fifth-year backup Justice Hill stepped in and immediately scored a touchdown, his first since the 2019 season. While he later scored a second touchdown, matching his career-high for a season, Hill only amassed nine yards on eight carries. Veteran backup rusher Gus Edwards, who has filled in as a starter at times in his career, was a bit more productive with his eight carries, racking up 32 yards.

Adding veterans didn’t quite deliver the desired result two years ago when Dobbins, Edwards, and Hill all missed the 2021 season with season-ending injuries before the year even began. That year, Baltimore turned to a committee featuring veteran backs like Devonta Freeman, Latavius Murray, and Le’Veon Bell in conjunction with Ty’Son Williams. Freeman and Murray each reached 500 rushing yards and delivered six scores apiece, but overall, the running game was dependent on quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Still, the Ravens added veteran rusher Melvin Gordon in the offseason, ultimately cutting him and signing him to the practice squad before the regular season. Gordon seems like an obvious callup to help carry the load without Dobbins. The Ravens also saw some impressive preseason performances from undrafted rookies Keaton Mitchell and Owen Wright, landing both on the team’s roster in some capacity to start the year. Mitchell currently resides on injured reserve himself, so he’s unable to contribute at this time. Wright, though, landed on the practice squad and may also hear his number called up to the active roster this season.

Dobbins is now expected to undergo surgery to repair his Achilles tendon this Friday, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. Pelissero points out that Rams running back Cam Akers recovered from a similar surgery in less than six months two years ago. Dobbins will be aiming for a similar timeline, bringing him back shortly after the start of the 2024 league year.

In other injury news, Harbaugh confirmed that starting free safety Marcus Williams “will be out for a while” after suffering a pectoral muscle injury, according to Ravens editorial director Ryan Mink. Williams missed seven games in his Baltimore debut last year and will be forced to miss more in 2023, but the team is holding out hope that he will not be out for the season. He’ll be forced to make a decision soon on whether or not he will undergo surgery, as well.

In Williams’ absence, the team turned to Geno Stone yesterday. Stone started the seven games missed by Williams last year, as well. The team also has versatile defensive backs Brandon Stephens and Ar’Darius Washington that they can turn to. Stephens recently moved back to safety after spending time at cornerback when the depth chart was thin there. Washington has always been a safety but got extensive work in the slot this offseason.

Starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley and center Tyler Linderbaum suffered a sprained knee and ankle, respectively, forcing them both to leave the game early, as well. Both players are reportedly “week-to-week” but could miss the trip to Cincinnati this Sunday. Versatile sixth-man Patrick Mekari stepped in for Stanley yesterday and is an easy choice to start as an injury replacement as he’s done so often in the past. Offseason addition and practice squad callup Sam Mustipher filled in at center and will likely continue to do so, if needed.

The team will certainly hope that they won’t need to rely on Mekari and Mustipher for too long, and though they are clearly missing many bodies for the upcoming matchup with their division-rival, they’ll hope to get some back, too. Both cornerback Marlon Humphrey and tight end Mark Andrews will have a chance to play this weekend. There’s still work to be done, but things have been looking up recently for both players.

Latest On Ravens’ RB Situation

The Ravens’ offense has produced a top-three rushing attack in each of the past five seasons. This certainly doesn’t mean that the team had have its fair share of issues at running back, namely injuries.

Dating back to 2018, when a rookie, Gus Edwards, was forced to start in place of an injured Alex Collins, nearly every back on the roster, from Edwards to Mark Ingram to Justice Hill to J.K. Dobbins has missed time due to injury. Will that affect the way they fill their roster this season? Not exactly, according to Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic.

In the past, the serious nature of some of these injuries have forced Baltimore to invest in inexpensive veterans with starting experience like Devonta Freeman, Latavius Murray, and Le’Veon Bell. Veterans with starting experience are available in bulk this year with Dalvin Cook, Kareem Hunt, Ezekiel Elliott, and Leonard Fournette all available on the free agent market. None of those options are necessarily cheap, but according to Zrebiec, the Ravens aren’t looking for an option that would take snaps away from their top tandem, anyway.

The Ravens are extremely confident in their one-two punch of Dobbins and Edwards. The two are impressive, each with starting ability in their own right while providing different attacking styles and running traits. When both are healthy in the backfield behind quarterback Lamar Jackson, it’s easy to predict yet another strong rushing performance in Baltimore.

The injuries have held the duo back in recent years, though. Dobbins has missed 26 games in the past two years, including the entire 2021 season. Edwards missed 25 games in the same time period after also missing the entire 2021 season. The fact that the Ravens aren’t looking for anyone to take significant carries in free agency, though, bodes well for their prognoses for 2023.

The team isn’t looking for potential starters in case of injury, but they are looking for camp bodies who can keep Dobbins and Edwards off their feet throughout the preseason. Currently on the roster, Baltimore is home to the veteran backup Hill and undrafted rookies Keaton Mitchell and Owen Wright. The Ravens re-signed Hill back in March to a two-year, $4.51MM deal, and while his special teams prowess should guarantee him a roster, he’s never contributed significantly on offense. Mitchell and Wright, on the other hand, are great camp bodies, but unless one of them breaks out this preseason, neither is likely to make the initial 53-man roster.

So, what is Baltimore looking for in a free agent addition? The Ravens could really use another camp body or two that can serve as injury insurance throughout the season, as well. Zrebiec suggests a strong option in former-Raven Kenyan Drake. The veteran running back spent his seventh season in the league in Baltimore last year and ended up leading the position room in carries, trailing only Jackson for the team lead. Drake provided some solid depth to a team gingerly returning from significant injuries to its top three running backs and would likely be an affordable option to bring back in for the 2023 season.

Drake would already be familiar enough with the team, despite a new offensive coordinator in Baltimore, but J.D. McKissic and Marlon Mack provide similar potential as roster additions. James Robinson provides a younger option after his recent release from the Patriots. All three have shown flashes of starter potential but don’t necessitate a contract befitting a starter. Adding one or two of these backs could provide the Ravens with a little insurance heading into the season with a hopefully healthy tandem for the first time since 2020.

Ravens To Re-Sign RB Justice Hill

The Ravens have been idle to date in terms of making additions on the open market, but a familiar face in their backfield will remain in place. Baltimore is re-signing running back Justice Hill, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link).

This new pact will see the 25-year-old earn $4.5MM over two years. The contract has a maximum value of $5MM, marking a notable investment given Hill’s location in the Ravens’ running back pecking order. Baltimore already has J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards as their top options at the position, and quarterback Lamar Jackson has represented another key element of their rushing attack during his time in Charm City.

As a result, Hill has only received 119 carries in three seasons. Part of that total is owing to the Achilles tear which kept him sidelined for the 2021 campaign, one in which Dobbins and Edwards both missed the season in full as well. At least one of the latter two were unavailable for much of 2022, but Hill was able to play in 15 contests. He recorded 262 scoreless yards on the ground (at an average of 5.3 per carry), adding 12 catches for 58 yards.

While the Oklahoma State product’s tenure has been limited in terms of opportunities on offense, he also has experience on special teams. Hill returned kicks as a rookie, then did so again in 2022 after wideout Devin Duvernay was lost for the season due to injury. The latter has been floated as a potential trade candidate given his inflated cap number on the final year of his rookie contract and the team’s tight financial situation. Should Duvernay be moved, Hill could be in line to handle return duties full-time.

Edwards recently agreed to lower his 2023 compensation in a move which ensures that he will remain in the fold for the coming season. With Dobbins still on his rookie contract and Hill now on the books, the Ravens will have continuity in the backfield for at least one more season as they look to continue their strong ground attack under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken.

J.K. Dobbins To Undergo Knee Surgery

The Ravens played J.K. Dobbins‘ return from his severe knee injuries cautiously, keeping their running back off the field for this season’s first two games. Baltimore has also kept Dobbins’ carry count under 10 in three of the four contests he has played.

Dobbins will not be in uniform in Week 7, however. The Ravens ruled out their top running back for their Browns matchup. Dobbins did not practice all week, with his knee being the restriction here. It turns out Dobbins will be sidelined for another extended stretch. He will undergo arthroscopic surgery on the knee, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. John Harbaugh said Dobbins’ knee tightened up last week.

This obviously should present cause for concern, considering Dobbins was sidelined for over a year. The former second-round pick sustained major damage in the Ravens’ preseason finale last year, suffering a torn ACL, LCL, meniscus and hamstring during that seminal game. While he made a successful return in Week 3, the Ohio State product has yet to clear 50 rushing yards in a game since coming back.

Dobbins also did not factor into the Ravens’ Giants matchup down the stretch. The Ravens turned to Kenyan Drake to lead their backfield in New Jersey. Drake cleared 100 rushing yards. The Ravens were also without Justice Hill in that contest. Hill has been battling a hamstring injury, but he is no longer on the team’s injury report. Hill practiced fully this week.

Gus Edwards remains on Baltimore’s PUP list, and although the team designated him for return, the team’s other back rehabbing an ACL tear is not guaranteed to suit up against Cleveland. The Ravens have until Oct. 26 to activate Edwards, or he will miss a second straight full season.

As a rookie in 2020, Dobbins averaged six yards per carry and scored nine touchdowns. The Ravens cut Mark Ingram after the 2020 season, clearing a path for a Dobbins-Edwards backfield. Each back’s severe injury changed those plans, ushering in a procession of veterans to Baltimore last season. The Ravens used the likes of Latavius Murray, Devonta Freeman and Le’Veon Bell in 2021; none of those vets are with the team any longer.

The team signed Mike Davis and reached an agreement with Drake after his late-summer Raiders release. These appeared to be insurance additions, with Dobbins and Edwards on the way back. But the signings have been rather prominent — particularly in Drake’s case — during this season’s first half.

Ravens’ Gus Edwards To Return To Practice; Justice Hill To Miss Time

The Ravens will start Gus Edwards‘ activation clock, marking a good sign for his near-future availability. Edwards will return to practice this week, John Harbaugh said.

From the point Edwards begins practicing, Baltimore will have 21 days to move him from the reserve/PUP list to its 53-man roster. If that does not happen during this timeframe, the fifth-year running back will miss the 2022 season. While the Ravens saw an activation window close last year (Derek Wolfe‘s), Edwards has been trending in the right direction for a bit. The oft-used backup said in mid-September he was close to a return from the ACL tear that wiped out his 2021 slate.

This news does come after Justice Hill suffered a hamstring injury that Harbaugh confirmed will cause the well-performing backup to miss time, via Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com (on Twitter). With Edwards and J.K. Dobbins‘ recoveries from full-season injuries generating most of the publicity this position group produced this offseason, Hill also returned after missing all of 2021. Hill’s Achilles tear suffered just before last season made the Ravens the rare team to lose its top three backs for an entire season.

Dobbins has been a bit slower to bounce back, but Hill has played well since returning. The 2019 fourth-round pick, whom the Ravens waived with an injury designation in September 2021, is averaging 6.6 yards per carry (19 totes, 125 yards) and has been the team’s top non-Lamar Jackson rusher. After being largely a nonfactor in the Ravens’ backfield during his first two seasons, Hill could be a key cog for the injury-plagued group. But he will need more rehab time, which reopens the door for Edwards to make an immediate impact.

Edwards, 27, has averaged at least five yards per handoff in all three of his healthy seasons, and the Ravens rewarded him with a three-year, $12.38MM extension in June 2021. As the Ravens await Edwards’ first game on that deal, Dobbins continues to be steadily reintegrated after returning from his extensive set of injuries. Dobbins has 20 carries for 64 yards and a touchdown in two games. The Ravens have Kenyan Drake and Mike Davis in place as Dobbins’ backups.

NFL COVID List Updates: 12/25-12/26/21

We’ve compiled a list of players who were placed on or activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Christmas and today. In some instances, players activated from the list remain on IR:

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Placed on practice squad/COVID-19 list: WR Steven Sims

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Washington Football Team