When the Baltimore Ravens used an early pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to select a running back despite having previously signed Mark Ingram to a multi-year contract last offseason, some analysts were confused by what seemed like a luxury pick. Ingram was not one of them. Ingram believes Baltimore's decision to draft Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins could be one of the final pieces of the Ravens' championship puzzle.
"I like the young bull. I've been following his game for a while," Ingram said of Dobbins during a recent appearance on NFL Network. "I like the way he runs the rock, for sure. He reached out to me right after he got drafted. Just shot me his number. Said he's looking forward to getting to work. I told him, 'Lets' go get a ring.' He said he's trying to go win a championship. I like his mindset, I like his attitude, and I like the way he runs the ball.
Last season (his first in Baltimore), Ingram shared the workload with quarterback Lamar Jackson and running back Gus Edwards. While the trio helped produce the single greatest rushing season by a team in NFL history. Some of Ingram's sustained success is at least partly due to the fact that he has had the luxury of sharing a backfield throughout his NFL career. In New Orleans, Ingram averaged less than 166 carries a year while sharing the workload with Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, Tim Hightower, and Alvin Kamara. While sharing the backfield prohibited him from putting up big numbers, it did limit the wear and tear on his body while allowing him to continue to be a very productive player into his 30s.
"To bring him and his talents to our room that's already special," Ingram said. "Our backfield is going to be the best in the league, for sure. We're looking forward to adding new playmakers to our team to win a championship."
Ingram despite never having a mind-boggling season as far as statistics are concerned, has lived up to his pre-draft expectations. A Heisman Trophy winner and national champion at Alabama, Ingram was one of the NFL's most productive running backs during the 2010s. A three-time Pro Bowler, Ingram is coming off a 2019 campaign that saw him rush for over 1,000 yards and 10 carries while averaging five yards per carry. His success during his first season in Baltimore helped the Ravens capture their second consecutive AFC North division title as well as the No. 1 seed heading into the playoffs.
While he won't be asked to handle the majority of the Ravens' workload, Dobbins is used to managing a heavy diet of carries. With Ohio State in the thick of the College Football Playoff race, Dobbins for 714 yards and eight touchdowns during the Buckeyes' final four games of the 2019 season. His best performance came against Michigan, as Dobbins rushed for 211 yards and four touchdowns while helping Ohio State defeat their arch-rival for an eighth consecutive year.
Dobbins made most of his damage operating out of the shotgun, which makes him a perfect fit within the Ravens' offense. Because of Jackson's unique skill set as both a pure passer and legit threat with his legs, Baltimore runs most of their offense -- including their running plays -- in the shotgun. According to PlayerProfiler.com's metrics, Ingram's 2019 shotgun carry rate was 94.5%, the NFL's highest total. In that formation, he averaged 5.3 yards per carry. His success running out of the shotgun throughout his career was a key reason why Baltimore brought him into the fold last season.
In Dobbins, the Ravens are getting another back who did most of his damage in college out of the shotgun. Of his record-setting 2,003 rushing yards for the Buckeyes last season, 1,755 of those yards came from the shotgun (via Sports Info Solutions), the second-highest total in college football last season. Dobbins, a strong, physical back that checks in at 5-foot-9 and 209 pounds, also rushed for 18 touchdowns last season while averaging 6.8 yards per carry out of the shotgun.
Despite playing on No. 1 seeds each of the past two postseasons, Ingram is still waiting for his first trip to the Super Bowl. To get there, Ingram and the Ravens will first have to get through the AFC North, a division that includes the always competitive Steelers, a talented Browns squad, and a revamped Bengals team that will be ushering in the Joe Burrow era this season. While he acknowledged that winning a third straight division title will be challenging enough, Ingram said he and his teammates are ready to take on all comers.
"We're trying to be champions," Ingram said. "Anything less than the Super Bowl is a bust for us. That's everybody's goal. That's our mindset throughout our organization and our team."