Behind Jackson and Edwards, Ravens mounting run to playoffs
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — With rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson likely to make a third straight start Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens‘ offensive linemen are gearing up for another delightful afternoon of plowing straight ahead as part of the team’s suddenly formidable running game.
Joe Flacco didn’t practice Wednesday and is still waiting to get medical clearance following a hip injury that’s kept him sidelined since Nov. 4.
“There’s a process involved that has to do with the doctors and trainers and his rehab,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s progressing really well.”
Though Harbaugh did not rule out the possibility of Flacco playing Sunday in Atlanta, all signs point to Jackson running the offense when the Ravens (6-5) seek their season-high third straight victory.
With Jackson and rookie Gus Edwards leading the way, Baltimore rushed for 267 yards in a win over Cincinnati and another 242 last week in a 34-17 rout of Oakland. The Ravens are looking more of the same against the Falcons (4-7), who own the league’s 25th-ranked rushing defense.
“We’re having a blast,” rookie right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. said Wednesday.
The Ravens opened the second half against the Raiders with a 13-play drive that included 12 runs, the last by Jackson for a touchdown and a 20-10 lead.
“As an offensive lineman, it feels great to be able to do that,” guard Alex Lewis said. “It’s always fun running the ball. I’m excited what’s to come.”
Baltimore lost three in a row before Jackson took over for Flacco and started getting the ball to Edwards, who replaced Alex Collins (foot injury) as the featured back. Employing the run-pass option — a staple for Jackson at Louisville but a rarity in the NFL — the Ravens are averaging 5.30 yards per carry over the past two weeks.
Jackson ran for 117 yards against the Bengals and another 71 last week. Edwards, who started the season on the practice squad, has back-to-back 100-yard games.
“It definitely opens up your run game, having Lamar in there compared to Joe,” Lewis said. “Joe’s got a cannon (for an arm), but Lamar has feet and makes defenders miss. It’s helped us out tremendously.”
Hard to believe, but the Ravens have leaped back into the playoff picture with a rookie quarterback and an undrafted rookie running back operating behind a rookie right tackle.
It all begins with Jackson taking the snap, then either handing the ball to Edwards or dashing off on his own. Jackson’s speed and elusive qualities are almost impossible to duplicate in practice.
“He’s got such quickness and speed, like a wide receiver or a corner has, but he’s behind center,” Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said. “You can simulate that with a receiver for the run plays, but it’s not as authentic because he can’t step back and rip the passes.”
Edwards spent four years at the University of Miami before transferring to Rutgers for his senior year. He signed as a free agent with Baltimore in May, was assigned to the practice squad in September and activated to the 53-man roster on Oct. 13.
After much diligence and an impressive showing on the practice field, the 6-foot-1, 240-pounder is now a starter.
“Hard work pays off, and he has continued to do that,” Harbaugh said. “Talent is part of it. But he’s a great example for kids, that if you take the right approach you can achieve anything.”
There’s no bluster to Edwards, who speaks softly and has a reputation for being very low key.
“Very serious minded. He’s kind of all business,” Harbaugh said. “It takes a real funny thing to get him to smile. You’d better be on your joke game.”
Lately, Edwards have given Baltimore’s offensive line a reason to grin.
“They get pumped out there when we’re running and getting positive yards,” Edwards said. “They’re jumping around, looking at the sideline, hoping we continue going. They love it.”