3 Ravens players who need to step up in Lamar Jackson’s absence

Ravens, J.K. Dobbins. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)
Ravens, J.K. Dobbins. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images) /

The Baltimore Ravens don’t play the prettiest football, they don’t have a lovable underdog narrative, and right now they’re arguably one of the weakest teams in the AFC.

Simply put: Without quarterback Lamar Jackson, the Ravens are bad.

Recent reports suggest that Jackson may not recover in time for the Wild Card game, which puts the Ravens at a crippling disadvantage against their AFC North rivals.

In their last six games, the Ravens have scored just five touchdowns. Their offense pales in comparison to that of the humming Cincinnati Bengals, and Baltimore got just a small taste of the Bengals’ scary passing attack in Week 18 of regular season.

If the Ravens want any shot of winning this playoff game, they’ll need these three members of the offense to step up (and, of course, a near-perfect defensive performance).

3. J.K. Dobbins

The Ravens held Dobbins out of Week 18 for precautionary reasons, but the star running back should feature heavily in the Wild Card game if Jackson is sidelined.

Since returning in Week 14, Dobbins leads all running backs in rushing yards and yards per carry.

Given the past several weeks, there’s a strong sense that offensive coordinator Greg Roman doesn’t trust Tyler Huntley to throw, and the Ravens’ wide receiver unit remains severely shorthanded.

The Ravens will likely revert to a run-heavy offensive scheme with Dobbins as the lead back; Gus Edwards is still in concussion protocol and may not return in time for the Wild Card round.

If there’s one thing that the Ravens can rely on, it’s their running game. Dobbins will need a multi-touchdown, 100-plus rushing yard performance to keep this game close.

2. Mark Andrews

The Ravens’ wide receiver room may not be reliable in 2023, but have no fear, Mark Andrews is here to save the day.

Andrews’ production has suffered a steep decline in Jackson’s absence, and the star tight end hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 6 of the regular season.

Like Dobbins, Andrews was held out of Week 18’s game yet he should return in the Wild Card round and help light a spark in the Ravens’ dampened passing game.

In his last five appearances, Andrews has recorded just two games in which he hauled in 50-plus receiving yards. Compared to his record-breaking 2021 season, Andrews has struggled to shake off double-teams and hasn’t made his usual crater-sized impact; however, he is coming off a 100-yard performance in Week 17 and could take advantage of defensive mismatches against the Bengals.

If Andrews can rekindle his connection with Huntley, the Ravens just might have enough offensive firepower to drive down the field for a shot into the end zone, or at least set up Justin Tucker for one of many expected field goal attempts.

1. Tyler Huntley

Well, this is obvious.

Huntley sat out of Week 18 due to lingering shoulder issue and is reportedly still dealing with shoulder tendinitis. He was nonetheless spotted warming up in practice on Wednesday and will likely start under center if Jackson isn’t ready to go.

The backup quarterback’s shortcomings are already well-observed, and his 2022 record speaks for itself: Huntley is 2-2 with two touchdowns against three interceptions.

On his best days, Huntley can use his dual-threat abilities to muster a late game-winning touchdown, as seen in Week 13 against the Denver Broncos.

On his worst days, he is unable to generate any offensive rhythm whatsoever and the Ravens go completely limp, as seen in Week 15 against the Cleveland Browns.

What version of Huntley will we get in the Wild Card round (if he plays)?

Against a stout Bengals secondary, Huntley will first and foremost need to play a clean game, as even a single turnover would make it exponentially harder for the Ravens to hold back Cincy’s prolific passing attack.

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No turnovers, a few clutch third-down throws, and helping to extend drives using his legs. That’s a good start for now.