Is your team looking for a starting running back? Following the 2020-2021 season, Ravens running back Gus Edwards will hit the free-agent market. Previously a backup to Pro Bowler Mark Ingram this past season, Edwards has shown that he packs a punch as a runner to possibly be the main part of a rotation. Let’s take a look at why Edwards is unique back and a great free agent signing this next offseason.
Gus the Bus
Standing 6’1″ and weighing 238 pounds, Edwards is one of the largest running backs in the league. Popularly, Derrick Henry comes in at 247 pounds, making him the NFL’s heaviest running back. Also, Edwards’ numbers weigh more than the household names (Saquon Barkley (234), Ezekiel Elliott (225), and James Conner (236)). Unfortunately, Ravens fans know how effective a heavy running back can be after their debacle against Henry in the playoffs. Furthermore, they should also know the effectiveness of a big back after watching Jamal Lewis lead the offense for years.
While size is not everything, Edwards will be able to dish out pain. In 2019, Edwards rushed for 711 yards on just 133 carries. On these carries, Edwards gained 2.8 yards after contact (per Pro Football Reference). 2.8 YAC was T-5th in the league with Barkley and Josh Jacobs. Edwards only trailed Henry (3.2), Damien Williams (3.2), Leonard Fournette (3.0), and Nick Chubb (3.0). You can see the full list from Pro Football Reference here. In other words, Edwards attacks defense like hammers attack a nail.
Using the same list, Edwards had 46 of his 133 carries go for first downs, a rate of 34.6%. This further demonstrates Edwards’ carries were effective at moving the chains. For comparison, Williams only picked up 22 first downs on his 111 carries on the 2019 season. In fact, even though Barkley had 84 more carries than Edwards, he finished with fewer carries for first downs (45) than Edwards (46). Baltimore’s record-breaking rushing attack obviously benefited Edwards. However, it is hard to argue against the 238-pound war hammer.
Low-End Carries, High-End Speed
At his Rutgers Pro Day, Edwards’ 40-yard-dash time was timed at 4.52 and 4.53 seconds. While this time was faster than first-round pick Sony Michel (4.54), Edwards was not happy with the times. In an interview with the Baltimore Sun’s Edward Lee, Edwards claimed his best time was 4.4. Edwards’ actual 40 time puts him in the same category as Henry (who ran a 4.54) in terms of weight and speed. Edwards has the burst to be more than a short-yardage back.
Against the Texans, Edwards had his career-long carry of 63 yards. In the YouTube video from NFL Videos below, you can see how Edwards can hit that second gear. I will also give a shout-out to rookie wide receiver Miles Boykin for his amazing blocking downfield.
In his two years on the Ravens, Edwards has a 20-yard run in seven different games. About 25 percent of his games include a 20+ yard scamper. On the other hand, Edwards has only seen double-digit touches in twelve games. In my opinion, it shows Gus Edwards is making the most of his opportunities. In fact, it bodes in his favor to have such a light workload. Similar to teammate Mark Ingram, Edwards will still have a lot of tread on the tires. While in the league, Edwards has only gathered 270 rushing attempts (stats courtesy of ESPN). Next, in five years of college, Edwards only ran the ball 350 times (per playerprofiler.com). At the young age of 25, Edwards is still very fresh and ready to take over the lead back role in the future.
Breaking down the numbers even more, Edwards was only on the field for 34.1 percent of the Ravens’ offensive snaps. PlayerProfiler.com ranked that snap share 57th in the league. For a player who was only on the field about one out of every three plays, it is impressive he amassed 711 yards. Another fact about Edwards: he has only been targeted nine times in the passing game per ESPN. Despite this, he caught all nine targets. While Edwards will need to continue developing in the passing game, he possesses good enough hands to contribute.
As a rookie, Edwards came in and became the lead back for the Ravens. Famously, Edwards gashed Cincinnati for 115 yards on 17 carries. In fact, Edwards and rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson became the first pair of rookies to both run for 100+ rushing yards in a single game (per Elias Sports Bureau). In the final seven games of his rookie campaign, Edwards gained 667 yards on 123 touches, an average of 95 yards a game. Over a full season (16 games), Gus the Bus would have had 1,524 yards as a rookie UDFA.
In his second season, Edwards was only the lead back in Week 17 against the vaunted Pittsburgh defense. With the Ravens resting most of their starting offense and defense, it was Edwards’ time to shine. In terms of yards per game, the Steelers ranked fifth-best per fantasyfootballers.org, yet Edwards toted the ball 21 times for 130 yards (long of 38 yards). Looking at the numbers, Edwards has been the main back in eight games, gaining 799 yards total in these contests. Very solid numbers given the circumstances Edwards faced.
Baltimore enters the 2020-2021 season with four different backs expected to make the roster. Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill, and rookie J.K. Dobbins will all look to share the load in their own roles. In fact, in a presser with the Baltimore Ravens app, Harbaugh mentions he wanted a four-headed monster in the backfield. While this will likely lead to slightly fewer amount of rushes, this will be good for Edwards. He will enter free agency with less wear-and-tear on his body. Remember, Edwards finished second among running backs at 5.3 YPC.
Edwards is a young back how can break off a big gain or smash his way through the sticks. Then, as a rookie and second option in the backfield, Edwards still has gained 700+ rushing yards each year. I think Baltimore will ultimately decide between him and Mark Ingram following this season. Ultimately, Gus Edwards should make a team very, very happy with his signing this offseason. Edwards will be one of the most interesting free agents for the purple and black this offseason.