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Week 2 analysis: Dobbins could be starter sooner than later

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You might have missed it on Sunday, but Baltimore Ravens rookie J.K. Dobbins looks primed to be the starting running back in the near future.

For the second year in a row, the Ravens won a lopsided victory over the Houston Texans, this time by the score of 33-16. They start the season 2-0 for the second straight year, and they keep pace in the competitive AFC North race.

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The run game was a bit quiet in week one, and that seemed to continue in the first half of Sunday’s game. But all of that changed in the second half, where Lamar Jackson and all three of the Ravens running backs took turns carving up the Texans defense.

Run game as a whole strong, but Dobbins is special

Starter Mark Ingram had perhaps the play of the day for the offense, taking a direct snap on 4th and one and ran 30 yards for a touchdown, which effectively sealed the victory. Gus Edwards was the game’s leading rusher and looked unstoppable at times.

Dobbins, by contrast, didn’t see as much action this week. But even in his brief cameo on Sunday, he managed to show why he may be closer to taking over as the starter than even the most optimistic originally thought.

It was strange to not see Dobbins see action on Sunday until the second half. He had impressed in week one as a red zone threat after scoring two touchdowns in short yardage situations. This week, Dobbins did not reach the endzone, managed to show off his impressive combination of balance and speed.

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Two game-breaking plays

Dobbins had two plays that make you want to go back and rewind to watch again and again. In the third quarter, Dobbins managed to convert a crucial third and six by catching a pass and ran for 13 yards. On that play, Dobbins caught the ball only three yards out, and was immediately met by a Texans would-be tackler. The defender came in high, and Dobbins was able to show incredible balance by ducking under the tackler. As he was falling to the ground, Dobbins was able to plant a hand on the turf and keep his legs moving, shaking off the tackler and gaining an additional ten yards.

The video of the play can be seen here, courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens website.

The drive would end in a Justin Tucker field goal, but more importantly, it allowed the Ravens to shed an additional two and a half minutes off the clock. The whole drive lasted almost nine minutes–over half of the entire third quarter.

Late in the fourth quarter, Dobbins broke out the largest run play of the game, going for 44 yards. On the play, Dobbins breaks to the outside and shows that impressive burst of speed that made him a high second round draft pick this year. As he passed midfield, he planted his left foot and juked a Texans defender out of his shoes:

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Dobbins has shown a little bit of everything so far in the first two games of the season. He has shown he can be workhorse back in the red zone, and a big play back, both as a runner and a passer.

It is becoming increasingly clear that Dobbins possesses skills that the other running backs on the team do not possess. While his role has been minimal so far, it is only a matter of time before he is given a more significant role in the offense. That time was more than likely to come at some point, but it now seems that it could be coming sooner rather than later.

Quick observations from the game

  • The Ravens run defense provided almost no room for Texans running back David Johnson to run on Sunday. Johnson was held to merely 34 yards on 11 carries. I wrote last week that the Ravens run defense needed to step up more going forward. They were able to do that this week.

To read my Week one analysis and Week two preview, click here.

  • The Ravens defense as a whole continue to make game-changing plays. Linebacker LJ Fort picked up a fumble caused by cornerback Marlon Humphrey punching out the ball from a receiver and returned it 22 yards for the touchdown. Later on in the second quarter, cornerback Marcus Peters made one of the sexiest interceptions you’ll see all season.
  • Lamar Jackson continues to evolve as a passer. Last year, he relied mostly on his trio of tight ends in the passing game. On Sunday, Mark Andrews was limited to only one catch for 29 yards. Overall though, Jackson connected with nine different receivers, including all three starting wide receivers.
  • Texans head coach Bill O’Brien made a questionable decision to go for it on fourth and short deep in their own territory at the end of the first quarter. They failed to convert, and the Ravens converted the turnover into a touchdown. This is the second straight week that the opposing coach turned the ball over on downs deep in their own territory. Last week the Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski failed on a fake punt attempt. Both plays demonstrate how opposing coaches believe they must score enough points to compete with the Ravens high scoring offense.
  • It was painful to watch Ravens cornerback Tavon Young go down with a torn ACL in the first quarter. This is the second straight year that Young’s season ended early due to a major injury. Young is a talented player and well-respected on the team. At this point though it is fair to wonder if Young will ever be fully healthy for an entire season.

Looking ahead to next week

The Ravens get a day off on Sunday, and will instead host the defending Superbowl champions Kansas City Chiefs. This is the game that every football fan has circled on their calendars. It features the rematch of the last two regular season MVP’s, Jackson and Patrick Mahomes.

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Lamar Jackson will once again have the opportunity to exercise personal demons by beating the Chiefs. Jackson has only lost three regular season games and two of those have been to Mahomes and the Chiefs.

The Ravens star-studded secondary will have arguably their biggest test of the year. They have to defend against the greatness of Mahomes. In addition, they will have to deal with weapons such as Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and Travis Kelce.

Not only this, but the Ravens run defense will have to slow down talented rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. He has the speed to break open big plays, and is also a threat in the passing game.

Keys to the game

One key to the game for the Ravens is to limit the big plays down field. The Mahomes-to-Hill connection is especially deadly and the Ravens cannot let him get behind the secondary for game breaking plays.

Another key is for the offense to take care of the ball and not give the Chiefs any easy opportunities to put points on the board. As we saw last week, when the Chargers allowed Mahomes to have the ball with the game on the line – he can flip the script in mere seconds.

Final score prediction

This one will start off slow for both teams in the scoring department, but will turn into an old-fashioned shootout by the end of it. Expect both teams to put up big points, but it will come down to one or two key plays by a team’s defense to win the game.

Expect those big defensive plays to come from the Ravens. I believe the motivation to play the champs and to get revenge on their loss to them in Kansas City last season will fuel the Ravens. Combine that with the Baltimore finally hosting Kansas City at M&T Bank Stadium, where the Ravens are almost unbeatable and you have a prediction of:

Final score: Ravens 34, Chiefs 31

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