The Baltimore Ravens are entering the 2021 season looking to return to the playoffs for the fourth straight time. In the first three years of this run, Baltimore has won just one playoff game so the team has to be entering this season with higher expectations.

The team is once again led by Lamar Jackson, one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the league. Jackson, like the Ravens as a whole, is known for his running ability because of how well he is able to run through defenses no matter the opponent. The Ravens absolutely love to run the ball and it’s become pretty much their entire offensive identity.

When Jackson hands the ball off to his running back, it’s rarely the same one twice in a row but this season looks like it may be different. J.K. Dobbins went down for the season early on and now backup Justice Hill is set to miss the season. With the dust clearing, there is one running back the Ravens know they can trust, making him Baltimore’s X factor for the season.

Ravens X Factor: Gus Edwards

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Edwards isn’t someone the Ravens have to just throw into the fire and hope everything works out. He’s actually proved himself before and has done well consistently throughout his career. Edwards has played three seasons in the NFL, all with Baltimore. In each of those three seasons he has played all 16 games and performed much better than many would think. His numbers are eerily consistent almost anywhere you look. From 2018 to 2020 his rushing attempts per season were 127 in 2018, 133 in 2019, and 144 in 2020. In those years his total yards range from 133 to 144 which in turn makes his yards per attempt range from 5.0 to 5.3 without a doubt.

Edwards has 414 total rushing attempts in his career and has averaged 5.2 yards per carry. Very few running backs are able to be that consistent but Edwards has done it in a backup/situational role throughout his career. Entering 2021, he is set to be the lead running back for the first time.

The Ravens run more than anyone else in the NFL and they’ve done it like that for a while. Last season the Ravens ran a running play 55.0% of the time and only two other teams were over 50%. When looking at who ran the most over the last three seasons, the Ravens were at 57.6% so while they’re running less now, it’s still the most in the league. Basically, the Ravens run a ton whether it’s with Lamar Jackson or with the running back. Usually the Ravens go running back by committee but that’s not going to be easy with both Dobbins and Hill out for the season.

The key to the Ravens running game will be whether or not Gus Edwards can consistently be the guy he’s always been while in a starting role. If he can, then everything will be fine and the Ravens have nothing to worry about. If not, well, the passing game will have to step up and even more pressure will be on the shoulders of Lamar Jackson.