What’s next for Ravens at running back: Le’Veon Bell impact, free agent options after Gus Edwards injury

Table of Contents Who will start for the Ravens in Week 1?What about Le’Veon Bell?What

The hits keep coming for the Ravens at running back. Less than two weeks after No. 1 back J.K. Dobbins suffered a torn ACL, and just three days after backup Justice Hill suffered a torn Achilles, fill-in starter Gus Edwards is out for the entire 2021 season as well, sustaining his own ACL tear during Thursday’s practice. What on Earth is next for the Ravens at running back, considering Baltimore leans on the ground game more than arguably any team in the NFL?

Let’s try to answer all the pressing questions at hand:

Who will start for the Ravens in Week 1?

This is the most urgent question, considering the Ravens open their season in a matter of days. As of now, second-year reserve Ty’Son Williams is slated to take over as the top ball-carrier. The 25-year-old Williams was undrafted out of BYU in 2020 and spent most of his rookie year on Baltimore’s practice squad. After Hill went down, he took over as Edwards’ top backup.

What about Le’Veon Bell?

The former Steelers standout, last seen with the Chiefs in 2020, just joined the Ravens’ practice squad this week. Coach John Harbaugh said before Edwards’ injury that Bell might be promoted for Monday’s opener, and now that seems like a certainty. Early on, the bar should still be set low for the new guy, who has lacked pop since his Pittsburgh days and figures to be a situational or third-down option out of the gate. That said, Bell probably has a higher long-term ceiling than Williams because of his experience. Check back in Weeks 2-4, and he could be the Ravens’ starter.

What are the Ravens’ other options?

The next “best” thing appears to be former Falcons starter Devonta Freeman, who spent 2020 with the Giants and reportedly just signed to Baltimore’s practice squad in the wake of Edwards’ injury. The Ravens intend to activate Freeman to their game-day roster, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, meaning he’s a safe bet to at least handle No. 2/3 duties. The former Pro Bowler has always been a feisty runner but has battled his own injuries in recent years.

There’s also former Jets reserve Trenton Cannon, recently signed as depth. Technically, he’s now No. 2 behind Williams, but Bell and Freeman’s expected promotions would bump Cannon to more of a No. 4 role. The Ravens reached a deal with Latavius Murray, per The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec — so he’ll factor into the mix. 

Murray, at 31, still has some power in his legs. Recently cut by the Saints after refusing to take a pay cut as Alvin Kamara’s backup, he has starting experience from his days with the Raiders and Vikings, and would probably be the odds-on favorite to eventually lead the club in carries. 

Per SportsLine Data Scientist Stephen Oh, Murray is projected to have a comparable impact as Mark Ingram in his first season with the Ravens. Baltimore is back at 8% to win it all.

Baltimore

Win

Win%

Division

Playoff

Conf

Champ

Healthy RBs

11.1

65.3%

53.5%

83.2%

18.9%

10.6%

Edwards, Peters ACL

10.3

60.6%

37.2%

69.5%

10.0%

5.3%

w/ Latavius Murray 

10.7

62.9%

44.4%

77.2%

15.1%

8.2%

What are the fantasy implications?

CBS Sports fantasy expert Chris Towers estimates that Williams will take on 13-17 carries, with a very limited pass-catching role, in his first action replacing Edwards. While the big-bodied Williams isn’t necessarily a special player, Towers adds that Lamar Jackson’s presence tends to boost rushing efficiency, making the new starter a good bet for 60-80 yards against the Raiders. Beyond Week 1, Towers foresees another name — perhaps Bell or Freeman — splitting or potentially taking the bulk of RB1 reps.

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