Devonta Freeman was the Ravens ‘unsung hero’ in 2021

Kristen Wong
Devonta Freeman, Ravens (Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images)
Devonta Freeman, Ravens (Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images) /

The Baltimore Ravens suffered their share of unwelcome surprises in 2021 given roster injuries and COVID-19 absences, but one player proved to be more valuable than expected.

The Ravens’ offensive core will likely stay the same for 2022, though several key players will be returning from injury. Running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards may provide the biggest boost to the offense once they recover from their respective season-ending injuries, giving Baltimore a dominant rushing attack.

In 2021, the Ravens mostly went with a running-back-by-committee approach with three or even four players in the rotation, and while no single player broke out, Devonta Freeman could be considered the smartest addition of them all.’s Nick Shook listed every AFC team’s unsung hero in 2021, focusing on players whose contributions may have been overlooked or players who grew to be surprisingly productive all last season.

For Baltimore, that player was Devonta Freeman:

"“In came Freeman, a running back who hadn’t done much to impress with the Giants in 2020 but found himself with an opportunity. Freeman capitalized, carrying the ball 133 times for 576 yards, posting his best per-carry average (4.3 yards) in a season with at least 100 attempts since 2017. Baltimore benefitted from Freeman’s relative resurgence, watching him gain 13 first downs against stacked boxes (per Next Gen Stats) and keeping its offense alive despite the losses.”"

The Ravens didn’t regret signing Devonta Freeman in 2021

Freeman shared the backfield with Latavius Murray and Ty’Son Williams, and he finished the season with roughly the same rushing yardage as Murray.

Freeman placed second on the team with 576 rushing yards and added five touchdowns while Murray placed third with 501 yards and six touchdowns.

Each back helped the team in their own way and had their share of special moments, but as Shook writes above, Freeman was a weapon when it came to gaining first downs.

He could be considered the workhorse back of the two, manhandling his way past stout defenses and doing whatever was necessary to get his team a fresh set of downs.

The eighth-year running back posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons early in his career with the Atlanta Falcons, and despite being far past his prime, Freeman managed to be productive in Baltimore.

There’s no question that his role will diminish upon Dobbins’ and Edwards’ return (there’s a good chance he isn’t even on the roster), but the Ravens undeniably profited last season from taking a chance on a veteran back like him.

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In case of another emergency, the team may yet again call on Devonta Freeman and his overlooked heroics.