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Gus Edwards Settling Into No. 2 Running Back Role For Ravens

November 18, 2019
Gus Edwards went from undrafted rookie cut at the end of training camp to the Ravens' leading running back last year in a dramatic ascent, but his role figured to diminish with the free-agent signing of Mark Ingram this past spring.

Edwards, though, has settled nicely into his role as the Ravens' No. 2 back and has been a key component of a Ravens running game that is operating at a historic level. The Ravens are averaging 203.8 rushing yards per game; since the league went to a 16-game schedule in 1978, no team has ever averaged 200 rushing yards over an entire season. 

Quarterback Lamar Jackson and Ingram have rightfully earned most of the accolades. Jackson leads the Ravens with 788 rushing yards and is likely to set the NFL single-season record for rushing yardage by a quarterback, while Ingram has a team-high 136 carries for 667 yards and eight touchdowns. 

But Edwards shared some of the spotlight during the Ravens' 41-7 rout of the Houston Texans Nov. 17 as he rattled off a career-long 63-yard touchdown run and finished with eight carries for 112 yards, the fourth 100-yard game of his career. 

"Gus made two great runs during the game," Harbaugh said at his weekly Monday news conference the day after that win. "He played a really great game."

In addition to his fourth-quarter touchdown, Edwards had a 25-yard run in the first half that set up a Ravens touchdown. Harbaugh said that Edwards and Ingram received game balls after the Texans game for "setting the tone the way they are running the ball."

The Texans came into the game with the league's No. 3-ranked run defense and the Ravens piled up 263 rushing yards on 36 carries, gaining better than 7 yards a run.

Led by Jackson and that running game, the Ravens (8-2) have rattled off six straight wins to take a commanding lead in the AFC North and challenge for AFC supremacy.  

Edwards didn't make the Ravens out of training camp as an undrafted rookie last year, then was signed to the practice squad and elevated to the 53-man roster six weeks into the season. He became the Ravens' No. 1 back during the second half of the season, with his hard, north-south style proving to be a perfect complement to Jackson, who forced teams to guard the edges against the threat of him beating them outside.

Edwards had back-to-back 100-yard games in Jackson's first two career starts and had a third 100-yard game later that season. Despite playing just 11 games, Edwards finished the year with a team-high 718 yards on 137 carries. 

This year, Edwards has seen his workload predictably reduced with Ingram on board. Edwards has averaged about seven carries this year after averaging 17 over Jackson's seven regular-season starts last year.

Edwards has 71 carries for 390 yards and two touchdowns this season, along with four catches for 29 yards. 

And although his workload has diminished, he has played a valuable role in a running game that has been dominant, especially late in games. The Ravens have mounted several drives of eight minutes or more late in games, relying on Ingram, Edwards, Jackson and rookie running back Justice Hill to chew up yardage and the clock.

"Gus has played really well," Harbaugh said. "Gus is playing at a really high level. He's got a very big role on our team. He takes it seriously. He wants to produce, too. He wants to make these big runs. ... He's stepped up to the plate very well every time he's been out there. "

NOTEBOOK

49ERS GAME NOT FLEXED, WILL STAY AT 1 P.M.: The NFL announced that the Ravens' home game against the San Francisco 49ers will remain at 1 p.m. as originally scheduled. There was some speculation that the game would be flexed into a later time slot for more national appeal, moving either to 4:25 or to the "Sunday Night Football" telecast. 

Instead, the AFC West showdown between the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs was moved from 1 to 4:25 p.m., bumping the Cleveland Browns-Pittsburgh Steelers game back to a 1 p.m. kickoff. The Texans and New England Patriots remain the Sunday night prime-time matchup.

HARBAUGH: PASS RUSH HAS BEEN GOOD ALL YEAR: Harbaugh said it was "awesome" that the Ravens recorded a season-best seven sacks against the Texans, and he pushed back against the criticism the pass rush has drawn this season.

Entering the Texans game, the Ravens had recorded 16 sacks, the fourth-fewest total in the league. But they overwhelmed Watson and the Texans, with five sacks in the first half alone. Matthew Judon and Tyus Bowser recorded two sacks each, rookie Jaylon Ferguson recorded his first career sack, and Brandon Williams and Patrick Onwuasor had sacks as well.

The pass rush, Harbaugh said, "wasn't bad before. It was good before. So nothing's different. We just got there. I thought coverage did a great job ... but we've been getting quarterback hits up until that point. A couple guys have slipped out.

"I really think the pass rush has been good all year," he added. "I just have never really agreed with that [criticism]. ... The fact that we got seven sacks this game and got the reward is awesome."

RAVENS TWEAK SCHEDULE FOR MONDAY NIGHT GAME: Harbaugh said the Ravens will tweak their schedule to account for their game next Monday night at the Los Angeles Rams. Rather than practice Wednesday through Friday as they customarily do on a game week, they will practice Thursday through Saturday this week.

Follow Bo on Twitter @bsmolka


Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox