Ravens were not surprised by rookie RB J.K. Dobbins’ breakout game v Steelers

With veteran Mark Ingram out with a high ankle sprain, the Baltimore Ravens turned to third-year power back Gus Edwards and rookie running back J.K. Dobbins to carry the load in the backfield alongside quarterback Lamar Jackson in their Week Eight AFC North matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

While Gus ‘The Bus’ ran well and scored a rushing touchdown for the second game in a row, it was the second-round pick out of Ohio State who stole the show with a breakout performance against the team’s bitter rivals.

In his first game with extensive opportunities after being part of a three-man rotation in his first six career games, Dobbins had his best day as a pro to date.

He finished with a team-leading and game-high 113 yards on 15 carries, averaged 7.5 yards a carry, and caught one of his two targets for eight yards.

He not only recorded his first career 100 plus yard rushing game, but he became the first Ravens running back to eclipses the century threshold this season.

Dobbins had looked explosive in limited touches leading up to his breakout game, averaging 6.2 a carry before his big day against the Steelers so the Ravens weren’t surprised in the slightest when the rookie made the most of more touches and extended playing time.

“J.K. [Dobbins] wasn’t anything surprising to us; he’s going to play well,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “All of our backs are excellent backs. They all make plays. They all run well when they go out there. So, it wasn’t anything that I think was surprising in any way. We kind of expected him to play well, just like we do the other guys to play well when they go in there.”

Dobbins was considered a luxury pick when Baltimore picked him up in the middle of the second round in this year’s draft. The Ravens broke the single-season team rushing record last season and Ingram was coming off a great first year with the team where he recorded over 1,200 yards from scrimmage and made his third career Pro Bowl.

Many pundits and scouts believed Dobbins was the best running back in the class and a surefire first-round pick. His talent was too tantalizing for Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta to pass up on, so he pounced, and on Sunday the rookie showed just why so many evaluators were so high on him.

“That’s what they brought me here for,” Dobbins said. “They brought me here to play in big games like this and help the team win. But we didn’t get the win, so we need to just keep working.”

Ravens and Steelers matchups historically feature great defense and smashmouth rushing attacks. Baltimore had both in spades on Sunday with Dobbins leading the charge on the ground. His physical tackle-breaking running style fits this rivalry and the Ravens offense as a whole well.

“Yes, definitely a physical game, and that’s what I expected,” Dobbins said of his first taste of best rivalry in sports. “We’ve got to be better next time.”

In addition to tremendous physicality, Dobbins also showed great feet, speed as well as acceleration and burst through the line of scrimmage. His elusiveness in the open field is a thing of beauty and he’s an asset in the passing game as well.

Baltimore Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins (27) runs with the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, in Baltimore. The Steelers won 28-24. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

The Ravens might want to rethink or at least adjust their three-headed monster in the backfield approach to their running game because the rookie has the best traits of every other back on the roster rolled up into one and could be the key to finding more consistency on offense if he becomes more of a focal point going forward.

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