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Gus Edwards wants the Ravens to make rushing history — again. But where does he fit in?

Minutes after the Ravens had rumbled for the last of their 3,296 rushing yards last year, more than any team in NFL history had ever amassed, running back Gus Edwards was asked how long the record might stand for. It had taken 41 years to eclipse the previous mark. There was no modern precedent for the Ravens’ success.

As reporters circled him in the wake of a 28-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in their regular-season finale, Edwards didn’t have to think long. He said the goal would be to break it next season. He was as serious as a stiff arm.

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Over the past six months, the Ravens have done what seemingly only the Ravens can do: They’ve made Edwards’ 2020 target more realistic while raising questions about his role in that lofty pursuit. In drafting Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins, they reinforced one of the NFL’s top running back rooms and threw its pecking order into flux. Edwards was third in the league in rushing average last season. Now he might be third on the Ravens’ depth chart.

“I can’t say that I’m not looking forward to [the next season],” Edwards, who’s set to become a restricted free agent after this year, said in a video conference call Wednesday. “It’s a great opportunity that I’m in. I’m doing everything the same. I’ve always been a hard worker. I think that’s how I want myself to be remembered as — somebody that works hard. That’s what the team thinks of me. I’m going to be in a great position with a great team, a team that wants to run the ball. Everything is in front of me. I just have [to take] another step forward.”

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It will have to be a big one. Starter Mark Ingram II (1,018 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in 2019), a Pro Bowl selection in his first season in Baltimore, should be healthy for the start of training camp. Justice Hill (225 yards and two touchdowns), who flashed his talent as a rookie toward the end of last season, is back, too.

With Edwards’ emergence as a high-quality backup (711 rushing yards, 5.3 yards per carry), there seemed little room for improvement at the position entering April’s draft. The Ravens badly needed wide receivers and pass rushers and offensive linemen. Then they took Dobbins at No. 55 overall.

That surprised Edwards — not because the team had invested in the position, but because a player he considered maybe the draft’s top running back was still available.

“We definitely got better,” Edwards said. “It’s going to be difficult to do better than what we did last year with breaking the rushing record, but I think it’s a step forward. It’s a definite step toward that, because he’s a great back and all. He’s going to make the competition that much better in the running back room.”

Every snap will be hard-earned next season. Asked Wednesday whether there would be enough carries to go around, Edwards pointed to last year, when the Ravens won 12 straight games with an overpowering ground game. Their rushing offense finished with 596 carries; no other team had even 500.

But Ingram, Edwards and quarterback Lamar Jackson combined for nearly 86% of the team’s total carries. Hill averaged less than four attempts per game. If the Ravens rely more on their passing attack in 2020, or if they can’t hoard the ball as often as they did last season, opportunities at the position will plummet, especially with Dobbins’ arrival.

That could be especially consequential for Edwards. He declined to comment on the status of contract negotiations with the Ravens, who can tender him a one-year offer after this year or let him reach free agency. He’s already preparing as if this year is an audition, training twice a day during the offseason and working out four times a week with Hill, his close friend.

Edwards said he’s already proved himself a capable lead back. Even with the Ravens resting several starters, he rushed for 130 yards against a stingy Steelers defense in that record-breaking win. This season will be a test of his growth in other areas: his route running, his blocking, maybe even his patience.

He said Ravens coaches seem committed to feeding their new “four-headed monster.” For now, all he can do is focus on making history — again.

“That’s the first step,” Edwards said, “and we’ll see where it goes.”

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