Ravens’ Playmaker Tipped to Gain ‘100 Yards’ vs. Texans

A road trip to face a rebuilding Houston Texans team coming off a 3-13-1 campaign, now led by first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans and rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud, is the ideal way for the Baltimore Ravens to begin the 2023 NFL season in style.

The Ravens are loaded on both sides of the ball, but most of the attention will be on how their new-look offense fares at NRG Stadium. Ironically, new wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Zay Flowers aren’t tipped to dominate, but running back J.K. Dobbins is expected to shine.

Dobbins against a Texans’ defense soft on the ground last season is one of the best fantasy matchups identified by ESPN’s Tristan H. Cockcroft. He believes Dobbins will “be a significant factor for a team that’s the biggest favorite on the board in Week 1. Even with only 12 to 15 carries, he stands an excellent chance at both 100 yards rushing and, by extension, a double-digit PPR fantasy output.”

Posting triple-digit yards on the ground from less than 20 carries is a tall order for any running back, but Dobbins has produced similar wonders in the recent past. He’s also motivated to thrive during a pivotal season while playing on the last year of his rookie contract to prove he merits a more lucrative deal.

Ravens Runner Used to Big Days

Dobbins is familiar with the kind of prolific rushing performances Cockcroft predicts. No. 27 returned from injury in Week 13 last season and promptly averaged eight yards per rush in a 15-carry, 120-yard effort against AFC North rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers. That stellar showing was followed by Dobbins amassing 125 yards on just 13 carries against the Cleveland Browns a week later.

Numbers like those should make Dobbins a lead workhorse on any team. At least part of those numbers should.

Dobbins hasn’t been happy with a reduced number of carries. He spoke out after gaining 62 yards on 13 attempts against the Cincinnati Bengals in the playoffs, per ESPN’s Jamison Hensley: “I’m tired of that. I’m tired of it. I’m a playmaker.”

J.K. Dobbins said he let it known on the sideline that he should be more involved.

“I’m tired of that. I’m tired of it. I’m a playmaker. I’m a guy that my teammates feed off me when I’m on the field. I should be out there all the time.”

— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) January 16, 2023

The player’s unhappiness with his workload was compounded by uncertainty over his next contract. Dobbins participated in a hold-in, missing valuable practice time during a training camp where new offensive coordinator Todd Monken was busy installing his system.

Fortunately, Monken told reporters Dobbins has “been ready to go from the start,” per Hensley.

Ravens OC Todd Monken on RB J.K. Dobbins, who had a late start to training camp: “I really like where he’s at. I think he’s been ready to go from the start.”

— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) September 7, 2023

Monken needs Dobbins up to speed from the first game. The Ravens are expected to pass more on Monken’s watch, but the play-caller would be wise to lean on the running game early, particularly against a Texans’ defense expected to still be vulnerable on the ground.

Texans Still Weak Against the Run

As Cockcroft put it, “the arrivals of new head coach DeMeco Ryans, formerly the 49ers’ defensive coordinator, and defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins should help improve the team’s prospects, but there’s still a large gap to close before this defense can be characterized as quality.”

Expectations remain low after Houston’s D’ allowed a league-high 2,894 yards. They also surrendered five yards per carry.

The Texans were burned by two unlikely 100-yard rushers in their last regular season game. Jonathan Taylor’s backup Zack Moss gained 114 yards on 18 carries against the Indianapolis Colts. Moss’ big day came one week after Travie Etienne needed just nine rushes to tally 108 rushing yards for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Monken is likely to design a more receiver-friendly offense, but he can’t ignore numbers like these. Nor will the coordinator keep a runner as talented as Dobbins, with a point to prove, stewing on the sidelines.

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