There’s no question that if second-year running back Kenneth Dixon is out for the rest of the season after he had surgery Tuesday to repair a torn meniscus in his knee, it would constitute a significant loss for the Ravens.
Despite battling injuries, Dixon flashed at different points last season and showed, particularly in the Christmas Day game against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers, that he has the potential to be a lead back.
The Ravens, who didn’t do a whole lot to upgrade a struggling offense this offseason, need their most talented and explosive players on the field and now it’s unclear if that will ever happen for Dixon in 2017.
But his absence doesn’t mean the Ravens should be in panic mode at running back either. The cupboard is not bare with Terrance West expected to get the bulk of the carries and Danny Woodhead more than capable of spelling him at times, including on third downs. West should be especially motivated in his contract year.
Buck Allen and Lorenzo Taliaferro could get opportunities and the Ravens like what they saw in minicamps out of Tiquan Mizzell, an undrafted free agent out of Virginia.
They are expected to sign free-agent running back Bobby Rainey and if they feel it necessary to immediately add another ball carrier, veterans DeAngelo Williams and Rashad Jennings are looking for work.
But the Ravens’ best play right now — at least if you ask me — is to do nothing at all beyond adding Rainey.
Give Allen an opportunity to prove last year was an aberration and he has rediscovered the hard-running style that he showed at times in his rookie season. See what you have in Mizzell who was extremely productive for the Cavaliers. Mix in some carries for Taliaferro, who has transitioned to fullback but could seemingly reprise the role that Le’Ron McClain used to occupy for the Ravens.
There will be plenty of opportunities to potentially upgrade at the position later this summer. In the NFL, the supply of running backs exceeds the demand and more quality ball carriers will hit the free-agent market in the weeks ahead.
There’s already been a report that the San Francisco 49ers, after signing Tim Hightower and drafting Joe Williams, could move on from Carlos Hyde. After using high draft picks in consecutive years on Leonard Fournette and TJ Yeldon, the Jacksonville Jaguars might not keep Chris Ivory around for much longer.
The New England Patriots added Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee this offseason and it seems inconceivable, even for Bill Belichick, that they’ll be able to keep the rest of their returning backs, a group that includes Dion Lewis, James White and Brandon Bolden.
With the New Orleans Saints signing Adrian Peterson and using a third-round pick on Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram’s status is suddenly unclear.
The Denver Broncos have an excess of backs with youngsters Devontae Booker and De’Angelo Henderson joining a backfield that also includes CJ Anderson and Jamaal Charles.
A number of other veterans could find themselves looking for new homes later this summer. That list could include Alfred Morris (Dallas Cowboys), Matt Jones (Washington Redskins), Shaun Draughn (New York Giants) and Ryan Mathews (Philadelphia Eagles).
There is a popular saying nowadays that you can find running backs anywhere. That’s why the Ravens needn’t panic. If their current backs falter, there will be plenty of potential replacements available in due time.