The Baltimore Ravens had a good season in 2018. Much of the league would’ve killed for 10 wins and a playoff birth. But you don’t succeed in the NFL by settling for “good” (and you certainly shouldn’t be satisfied with an exit in the Wild Card round). The Ravens confronted this need for improvement with some savvy off-season moves. Most people have focused on the switch at quarterback from veteran of mediocrity Joe Flacco to Lamar Jackson, the Heisman winner out of Louisville entering his second year at the sport's highest level. However, the addition of Mark Ingram at running back may prove to be just as important for Baltimore's success.
Ingram brings much needed talent and big play potential to the Ravens’ backfield. The list of runners in Baltimore last season reads like a who’s who of bland running backs: Gus Edwards, Alex Collins, Kenneth Dixon, Javorius Allen, Ty Montgomery, De’Lance Turner. Despite not having much name brand value, that group combined for over 1600 rushing yards on the season thanks to a solid offensive line and a run-first scheme. Even so, the Ravens could not find a star at running back. Their leading rusher, Gus Edwards, led the group with 718 yards, less than half of the total yards produced by the running backs.
Mark Ingram can fill that role of the star in the backfield. Last year in New Orleans, Ingram rushed for 645 yards with the Saints despite being limited by a 4 game suspension, a timeshare with superstar Alvin Kamara, and a pass-heavy offense led by future hall of famer Drew Brees and elite wide receiver Micheal Thomas. Even with the Saints penchant for passing Ingram managed to eclipse 1000 yards rushing in both the 2016 and 2017 seasons. With that level of talent and experience in the Ravens' run-friendly offense, imagine what kind of numbers Ingram could put up in 2019.
Now that the Ravens must rely on Jackson as their signal caller and passer, they need to limit his wear and tear. The now-starting-quarterback was Baltimore's second leading rusher with 695 yards. He also had the most rushing attempts of anyone on the team with 147 (Gus Edwards was second with 137). Lamar Jackson is far too athletic and talented to not be used in the run game at all, but allowing the starting quarterback to lead the team in rushing attempts is just not good football. Not only does it make the offense one-dimensional, but more importantly it endangers the franchise player by exposing him to higher injury risk. Adding Ingram provides Baltimore with a legit rushing talent capable of taking the mantle of the team's workhorse back. With a clear leader in the backfield, the Ravens can protect their quarterback of the future by limiting his rushing attempts while still churning up yards on the ground. Jackson will undoubtedly use his legs on many plays, but now he won't have to be a main rusher. As fast and elusive as Jackson is on the ground, the Ravens offense can only thrive if he is a legitimate aerial threat. Ingram's production in the backfield can help open up space for the young receiving core to operate by drawing the attention of the defense.
The Baltimore Ravens’ brand of football has emphasized defense for years now. And while many will say that “defense wins championships,” it can only do so if the offense can move the ball and put points on the board. The Ravens have finally recognized this and revitalized their offense with youthful weapons at quarterback (Jackson, and Penn State product Trace McSorley) and wide receiver (a slew of rookies highlighted by Notre Dame’s Miles Boykin and Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown). The addition of veteran running back Mark Ingram, a skilled back who has experience winning in the playoffs, may provide just the right talent and balance the Baltimore roster needs to go from good to great.
All stats from ESPN.com