Lamar-sha, Lamar-sha, Lamar-sha… everyone is so obsessed with Lamar Jackson’s dual ability to run as a quarterback that they overlook the young man who is actually the new feature back of the Ravens.
CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora made 19 “fearless forecasts” in different statistical categories for the upcoming 2021 season. One of them is that Dobbins will lead the AFC North in rushing yards.
“Check out any of his peripherals from his rookie year,” La Canfora wrote. “A rookie year in which Mark Ingram was still supposed to be the man. Dobbins has explosion and is in a perfect scheme in the pistol. His elusiveness and ability to adapt to a moving and shifting mesh point makes him a true game-changer in an offense that is zigging when everyone else zags. Baltimore added some new coaches and wrinkles but will still run more than any team in the NFL – by quite a margin – and they won’t want Lamar Jackson running 16-20 times a game once he is making $40M a year.”
Cleveland’s Nick Chubb rushed for over 1,000 yards last season and is just one season removed from rushing for 1,494 yards. Joe Mixon is a talented running back on an improved Cincinnati Bengals team and the Pittsburgh Steelers also have a talented rookie running back in Najee Harris.
But everything Dobbins displayed during his rookie season shows he’s capable of being a dominant rusher.
Here’s what Press Box’s Bo Smolka said would be second-year progress for Dobbins:
“He becomes just the second Ravens running back since 2014 to top 1,000 yards for a ground game that again proves to be the best in the league, he tops last year’s nine-touchdown total and he elevates his play in the passing game en route to a Pro Bowl nod,” Smolka wrote.
The former second-round pick from Ohio State had a stellar rookie season, leading all of the team’s running backs with 805 yards on 134 carries. Dobbins also recorded a rushing score in seven consecutive games (nine scores overall), including the wild-card playoff game against Tennessee, which tied for the second-longest streak by a rookie in NFL history.
GM Eric DeCosta had not even planned on selecting a running back last year before Dobbins fell into their lap. He was too good of a playmaker to ignore.
That proved to be a shrewd decision by DeCosta because Mark Ingram battled injuries, which would have left the Ravens short-handed without Dobbins.
The combination of Dobbins and Gus Edwards (723 yards rushing), in addition to quarterback Lamar Jackson (1,005), helped the Ravens lead the NFL in rushing for a second consecutive season.
Baltimore averaged 191.9 rushing yards per game and produced the third-most ground yards (3,071) in a 16-game NFL season.
The Ravens are so confident in Dobbins that they parted ways with Ingram this offseason.
Dobbins has worked hard judging from the photos he posted on social media. He’s added more muscle and appears laser-focused on carrying the load for the team.
“Put it on me,” Dobbins said. “Let’s go. That’s how I see it. That’s how I see this offseason. That’s how I’m attacking it. I can’t slack off at all. I’m working hard. My coaches and my teammates are putting trust in me, so I can’t let them down.”
Dobbins did have some challenges with drops attempting to catch passes out of the backfield. He had a critical bobble in the playoff game against the Bills that would have led to a key first down. After the game, Dobbins sat dejected on the bench by himself.
“I go over to him and I’m like, ‘Hey, man. Listen, you had a phenomenal year. Your rookie year was amazing. You’re going to have a great career. Let this hurt. This is supposed to hurt. Let it hurt,’ ” fullback Pat Ricard said. “You’re going to have a great career. Just let this one hurt and just try to move on from it.’ I mean, for him to start this year and kind of have … The touches were kind of spread across our offense and he was getting his touches here and there.
“But once he really started to get more touches in the game [and] started to get more confidence, we all started to see who J.K. Dobbins was. I think moving forward now for him, I think he has his foundation of, ‘OK. I can be a great running back in this league, because I know that it’s in me.’ I think that if he has a great offseason and just learns from everything, he’s just going to start taking off and just get better and better. I’m excited.”
Dobbins will get support from Edwards, who re-signed with the team on a one-year, $3.3 million deal this offseason.
“He can block, [and] he can run the ball well. He can do a lot of things, and that guy is a good player,” Dobbins said about Edwards.
“I just know what I have to do,” Dobbins told the team’s website. “I know what needs to be done. I know I have to come in and be ready to go. The team is looking at me. The coaches are looking at me. I love that, you know what I’m saying.”