Of all the stats and records from the Ravens’ historic 14-2 season, which one stands out the most?
Jen Badie, editor: The single-season team rushing record. It took 41 years for that record to fall and goes to show how unusual the Ravens’ high-powered offense has been this season.
C.J. Doon, editor: Lamar Jackson joining Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers as the only quarterbacks to throw at least 30 touchdowns passes and six or fewer interceptions in a season. Jackson even led the NFL with 36 touchdown passes (in just 15 starts). His Las Vegas over/under total in the preseason was 15. Rushing for over 1,000 yards seemed inevitable, but Jackson becoming a hyper-efficient passer in just his first full season as an NFL starter is nothing short of remarkable.
Daniel Oyefusi, reporter: Five. That’s the number of games the Ravens were able to pull a number of starters with the outcome decided by the fourth quarter. The 14-2 record is so impressive in itself, but the way the team ran through its competition, many of whom are in the playoffs, when it seemed like they were due to slip up is a feat in itself.
Mike Preston, columnist: Time of possession. The Ravens had the ball an average time of 34 minutes and 47 seconds per game compared to 25.30 for the opponent. That indicates that the offense is controlling the pace of the game, gaining yards on first downs and converting on third downs. It usually translates into more points being scored than given up, which was the case most of the time in 2019. It also means the defense was playing well enough to keep feeding the offense the ball.
Peter Schmuck, columnist: Becoming the first team in NFL history to average 200-plus yards rushing and 200-plus yards passing. It’s the proof that the coaching staff did create a “revolutionary” offense and it’s the reason that so few teams have been able to slow the Ravens this season.
Jonas Shaffer, reporter: It’s not necessarily a mainstream stat, but the clear one for me is the Ravens’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average. The Football Outsiders-generated statistic measures the efficiency of a team’s offense, defense or special teams by determining how successful a particular play is relative to the league average. The Ravens’ regular-season DVOA of 41.5% was the seventh best since 1985, trailing only juggernauts such as the 1985 Chicago Bears and 2007 New England Patriots.
Childs Walker, reporter: It’s tempting to pick the single-season rushing record, because it had stood so long and seemed so unlikely to be broken in an era when the pass is king. But that doesn’t capture the Ravens’ comprehensive dominance. So it has to be their 249-point margin of victory over 16 games, the best the league has seen since the 2007 New England Patriots went undefeated in the regular season. The Ravens led the league in scoring and allowed the third fewest points. Their two-way excellence will be a major part of their case as an all-time great team if they continue rolling through the playoffs.
Should the Ravens be worried about Mark Ingram II’s health?
Badie: Probably not. The Ravens say he’ll be ready for the divisional game and obviously the Ravens will want a healthy Ingram available to them in the postseason. But even if he isn’t, Gus Edwards has shown that he is capable of picking up the workload. Against the Steelers on Sunday, he averaged 6.19 yards on 21 carries for 130 yards.
Doon: Not really. Even if Ingram sits out the divisional round game, the Ravens have a more-than-capable backup in Gus Edwards, one of the most efficient runners in the league. Ravens coach John Harbaugh even said Edwards could be a starting running back in the NFL. Rookie Justice Hills also offers a nice change of pace and pass-catching ability out of the backfield, and if Jackson is healthy, he’s the team’s most dangerous rushing threat.
Oyefusi: Ravens coach John Harbaugh and Ingram himself said he’ll be ready for the team’s first playoff game so I’ll take them for their word. But there has to be some level of concern after Ingram admitted he felt a pop in his lower leg, which often indicates a much more serious leg injury. Even if Ingram isn’t at 100% (which he won’t be) for the playoffs, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill showed in Week 17 that they are more than capable of taking on a larger role in the offense.
Preston: Worried is too strong a word. They should be concerned because he is a power back who runs through defenders. Even if he plays I’m not sure how long he will last at this point. But the Ravens have Gus Edwards as the backup. He isn’t as good as Ingram but can be just as productive in this offense.
Schmuck: Of course they should. If you saw him crumple to the ground during the Browns game, it certainly looked like he suffered more than a mild-to-moderate calf strain, but we’ll see whether he’s able to practice next week.
Shaffer: Of course. Ingram has looked fine walking around the locker room, and John Harbaugh remains optimistic that he’ll be ready for the divisional round. But if he’s not 100%, or if he aggravates the calf injury, the Ravens will be without one of the AFC’s top running backs. Gus Edwards might be averaging more yards per carry, and Justice Hill might be a more dynamic open-field threat, but they don’t have Ingram’s blocking ability or all-around game.
Walker: Not overly. Ingram seems to be progressing, and even if he’s not 100% healthy for the AFC divisional round, the Ravens have an excellent alternative in Gus Edwards. Not to mention their quarterback, who runs pretty well.
Top to bottom, do the Ravens have the best running back group in the NFL?
Badie: Statistically, yes. If we are taking Lamar Jackson out of the equation, Mark Ingram II ranks No. 14 and Gus Edwards is at No. 28 in total rushing yards. Only one other team has two players in the top 30 for rushing — New Orleans with Alvin Kamara at No. 23 and Latavius Murray at No. 30. Plus Edwards is at No. 3 and Ingram is at No. 7 in yards per attempt.
Doon: Probably not, but they’re pretty close. Dallas, Cleveland, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Green Bay and San Francisco might have more top-end talent, but Ingram and Edwards are the most efficient runners in the league, per the NFL’s Next Gen Stats. This team will be remembered for a long time for breaking the NFL single-season rushing record, but most will remember Jackson and the offensive line, not the running backs.
Oyefusi: If you’re counting Lamar Jackson, who finished in the top 10 for rushing yards this season, I would say, yes. Ingram seemed to hit the fountain of youth this season and Edwards, spelling Ingram, has shown that he is a starting-caliber running back. Hill also has come on strong late in his rookie season.
Preston: They have the best running back group compared to their need on offense. They want downhill runners and have two good ones in Ingram and Edwards. I would prefer a more shifty-type runner in the group but that’s not the priority of the offense. The Ravens want one-cut, straight-ahead type runners; both Edwards and Ingram fit the profile.
Schmuck: Don’t know about that. They certainly have the best rushing attack and Lamar Jackson’s “not bad for a running back,” but he’s not a running back. This group, with a healthy Mark Ingram II, is certainly right up there.
Shaffer: Cleveland Browns star Nick Chubb is one of the NFL’s best backs, and Kareem Hunt produced in his eight games after returning from suspension. It’s tough to say how much better they’d be playing next to Lamar Jackson or behind the Ravens’ offensive line, but they’d probably give Ingram, Edwards and Hill a run for their money. With the Ravens’ depth and reliability, though, they get the nod.
Walker: That’s a difficult question to answer because so much of what they do is predicated on Jackson’s unique running skill. What’s remarkable is they have one of the best running back groups and the best running quarterback. Put all the components together and they’re unmatched.
After what you saw Sunday, could Robert Griffin III start for another NFL team?
Badie: It’s hard to say; there’s a reason he’s been a backup over the past two seasons. Griffin only completed 11 for 21 passes for 96 yards against the Steelers. Sure, the weather may have played a bit of a factor as well as the game situation but of those passes, the longest was just 20 yards and most were in the 10- to 15-yard range. But he did show he can still run, averaging 6.25 yards per carry on his eight rushing attempts.
Doon: There’s still some life in RGIII’s legs. Though he struggled passing in wet conditions Sunday, he still ran for 50 yards on eight carries. His days of starting NFL games are probably over, but he’s a capable backup and a valuable mentor, and certainly worth a roster spot.
Oyefusi: I know Griffin played without several starters in adverse conditions against one of the league’s top defenses, but I didn’t see a starting-level quarterback. A lot of his passes were off target and he struggled to move the ball through the air. But like coach John Harbaugh said, Griffin didn’t make any major mistakes and came out with the win, which is the most important thing for a quarterback. With the success of Jackson this season, there’s a chance more teams could try to copy Roman’s offense and if so, Griffin could see an opportunity, thought he is on contract for one season with the Ravens.
Preston: RGIII is no longer a franchise-caliber quarterback but a stop-gap, fill-in reserve.
Schmuck: Yes, but it’s still hard to project just how effective he would be over the long haul. He showed on Sunday that he can still pick up first downs with his legs and he managed the game well, but it would have been nice to see him under better conditions.
Shaffer: Griffin has impressed at times this season, but I can’t imagine NFL general managers beating a path to his door to sign him as their starting quarterback. If the Ravens keep him under contract through next season, he’ll be 31 by the time he hits free agency in 2021. Griffin’s age and injury history would be a tough sell. But starting quarterbacks get hurt all the time, and a healthy Griffin can be a dependable backup on whatever team he plays for.
Latest Baltimore Ravens
Walker: Griffin did not throw well against the Steelers (11 of 21 for just 96 yards), but the weather conditions were poor, and the Ravens ran a fairly conservative game plan. So it’s difficult to judge him in that area. He still runs well and leads an offense confidently. A team probably will not go out of its way to sign him as a starter, but he could handle the job in a pinch.