Mark Ingram‘s situation went from cautious optimism the running back would return to the field this week to hesitant uncertainty.
The Baltimore Ravens‘ lead running back missed Wednesday’s practice again due to a calf injury suffered in Week 16. Whereas last week, coach John Harbaugh said Ingram was on track to play in the Divisional Round, this week the RB is considered “day to day” still. Missing practices to open the week isn’t a great sign for his availability Saturday against the Tennessee Titans.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport noted earlier in the week that Ingram was essentially full speed last week but felt some tightness, per a source, and pulled back in hopes to avoid re-injury. Rapoport noted that Ingram still had a chance to play this week.
Since then, however, the running back still has not returned to practice.
In the event Ingram can’t go, the bulk of the workload will land on the shoulders of Gus Edwards.
“I’m prepared for whatever they give me. I’m hoping it’s a lot,” Edwards said, via the team’s official website. “I like to carry the ball. I’ve just got to get my mind ready, my body ready, and I’ll be ready when my name is called.”
Edwards proved he’s a solid stand-in for Ingram in the season finale. Despite facing a previously stellar Steelers defense — one who needed a win to keep playoff hopes alive — Edwards dashed for 130 yards on 21 carries (6.2 yards per tote) in Week 17. The second-year running back owns the power to run between the tackles, and enough pop on the second level to turn average runs into first downs.
“I like to take every rep with that mindset that it’s my opportunity to show what I can do,” Edwards said. “It’s unfortunate what Mark is going through right now. But I’ve got to step up. That’s why I’m here. I’m here to make plays and run the ball and help my team win games.”
Make no mistake, missing Ingram would be a big blow to the Ravens. The lead back is a violent runner who shoots out like a cannon once past the mesh point. His aggressive, angry nature is the perfect complement to Lamar Jackson. Not that Edwards can’t fill the shoes well enough, but there is just something different with the effectiveness of the Ravens‘ diverse run-game when Ingram is on the field.
If Ingram is sidelined or has his snaps curtailed greatly, the load will land on Edwards, along with shifty back Justice Hill, to ensure the Ravens‘ magical season isn’t derailed in the Divisional Round.
Baltimore’s run scheme has been unstoppable this season and should be on full display Saturday, even if Ingram sits. The Titans‘ weakness has been slowing outside runs, where they have a propensity to lose the edge and get gashed. If Ingram sits, that could mean we see Hill take on a bigger role than expected, attempting to use the rookie’s speed to burn Tennessee on the edge.