No team was affected by injuries in 2021 more than the Baltimore Ravens, and several of their 2022 breakout candidates were hampered by health question marks last season. Can the Ravens rebound next year, and which of their young players are ready to take a leap?
Baltimore Ravens 2022 breakout candidates
J.K. Dobbins, RB
Last summer, the Ravens lost running backs J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill to season-ending injuries, forcing the team to rely on Latavius Murray, Devonta Freeman, and Ty’Son Williams for the 2021 campaign. None of those latter three are still on Baltimore’s roster, so Dobbins, Edwards, and the newly-signed Mike Davis will form the club’s 2022 trifecta.
Dobbins is the clear favorite to take over as the lead back among that group. The Ravens passed the ball at a higher clip than usual last year, but they were the league’s run-heaviest team from 2019 to 2020. After beefing up their offensive line with center Tyler Linderbaum and right tackle Morgan Moses, Baltimore will likely get back to its run-happy ways in 2022.
Dobbins may begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list, but he’s expected to be ready for the regular season. In his rookie campaign, the former second-round pick led all NFL running backs with 6.0 yards per carry on 134 attempts. Dobbins may not reach that mark again, but he’ll get more volume, and he could flirt with double-digit touchdowns.
Given the dearth of receiving options in Baltimore, Dobbins could also become a focal point of the team’s passing attack. He showed off his pass-catching chops at Ohio State by hauling in 71 receptions over three seasons. Becoming a legitimate receiving weapon would only help Dobbins’ case as a true breakout candidate.
Rashod Bateman, WR
Adapting to the NFL is always difficult for rookies, and it’s even more challenging when those first-year players are beset by preseason injuries. Bateman injured his groin and underwent surgery last August. He couldn’t get on the field until early October, and his first pro season ended as a disappointment.
All told, Bateman appeared in 12 games, caught 46 of 68 targets for 515 yards, and scored one touchdown. Despite missing five contests, the Minnesota alum still finished third on the team in targets. However, it was a distant third behind Mark Andrews (153) and Marquise Brown (146).
Brown is gone now, as the Ravens traded him and a third-round pick (No. 100) to the Arizona Cardinals on draft night in exchange for a first-round selection (No. 23). Sammy Watkins (49 targets) is in Green Bay. Bateman is now the de facto No. 1 WR in Baltimore, as his only non-Andrews competition for targets comes in the form of the unproven Devin Duvernay, James Proche, and Tylan Wallace.
The Ravens could sign a free agent receiver before the season begins. But Will Fuller, Julio Jones, or any other available option would not push Bateman down the depth chart. He’ll be Baltimore’s top wideout, and he’ll get that target share that comes with that role.
Odafe Oweh, EDGE
Odafe Oweh famously didn’t register a sack in his final season at Penn State. Yet, his ridiculous measurables at 6’5″, 257 pounds — including the fastest 40-yard dash time for a defensive lineman in Combine history — convinced the Ravens to draft him at the end of the first round in 2021.
In 15 games, Oweh posted five sacks, three forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. His 49 pressures were third-most among rookies in 2021, trailing only the Dallas Cowboys’ Micah Parsons and the New England Patriots’ Christian Barmore. He played with a motor that never stopped, and he was tenacious in the run game.
Oweh played 615 defensive snaps a year ago, but that total should rise in his sophomore campaign. Neither Justin Houston (579 snaps) nor Pernell McPhee (234) has re-signed with the Ravens, so Oweh will step into a more significant role opposite Tyus Bowser. With his athleticism and persistent style of play, Oweh could be on the verge of a Pro Bowl-caliber season.