Although in recent years the passing game has taken a much bigger priority over the rush attack, having a good running back unit that can consistently pick up decent yardage through the ground is still very important. Whether it be to make a game plan to fit weather conditions like heavy snow or rain or to relieve your star quarterback's arm for a few plays, it's important to establish the run game in an offense.
Last season, our very own Cincinnati Bengals had the worst rushing attack in the division, finishing 29th out of the NFL's 32 teams, according to NFL.com. Pittsburgh finished at 16th and both Cleveland and Baltimore made it into the top 10 -- though a lot of Baltimore's rushing success in particular can be attributed to Lamar Jackson rather than their running backs.
Will this season shake out the same for these teams in terms of their run game? Or will one team leap up in the rankings and take everyone by surprise? Let's get an idea by ranking the running back units of the AFC North.
4. Baltimore Ravens - J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Melvin Gordon III
On the surface, it might seem ridiculous to put the Ravens' running back crew in dead last, considering the team as a whole had the second-best rushing offense in the league and by far and away the best in the division. However, as I stated above, a lot of this success can be attributed to Lamar Jackson's electric and explosive playstyle. He led the team in rushing yards with 764.
Remove his yardage on the ground and the Ravens' rush offense drops from second down to 20th. To be fair, if you did this with some other teams whose quarterbacks play a big role in their rushing attack such as the Bears, Bills, Eagles, or Giants-- whose quarterbacks were the only ones whose production finished near or above Jackson's-- theirs too would drop, however, not as drastically as Baltimore's numbers as their primary running backs still had over 800 yards and, in some cases, well over the 1,000 mark.
To be fair, their number one HB, who is legitimately a little underrated, J.K. Dobbins did only play eight games and put up 500 yards, but it's hard to justify putting the Ravens any higher because of his issues with staying healthy. Over the past two seasons, he's played in just eight games, missing the entirety of 2021 with a torn ACL and only playing the first six weeks of this past season before getting a 'cleanup procedure' on that same knee, not returning until Week 14.
Gus Edwards has been on the roster since 2018 and has been a reliable HB2 for Baltimore, but that's all. And as for Melvin Gordon, he's become infamous for being a chronic fumble, having five in just ten games last season. He is just a third option, though, so it won't be as big of a problem for the Ravens this year as it was for the Broncos last year.