Out of nowhere, Keaton Mitchell has given the Ravens yet another running threat
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Keaton Mitchell has become a bit of a celebrity after his breakout performance for the Baltimore Ravens last week.
His father — who like Mitchell went undrafted before reaching the NFL — is apparently trying to keep him grounded.
“He told me, ‘You have the 24-hour rule,'" Mitchell said. "'Enjoy it 24 hours, then let it go.’”
Mitchell needed only 14 offensive snaps and nine carries to make himself known in Sunday's 37-3 win over Seattle. The 21-year-old rookie ran for 138 yards and a touchdown after not having a single rushing attempt in his first two NFL games.
It's fair to say Baltimore's next opponent — Cleveland this week — is now aware of him.
“Runs hard,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. “I know size-wise, maybe not the biggest, but runs hard. They have multiple guys that they can hand the ball to.”
Mitchell's performance last week was one of the most out-of-nowhere rushing days in NFL history. His 138 yards are tied for the 12th-most in a game by a player with no previous carries, according to Sportradar. That list also includes AFL players from before the merger.
Some players on the list weren't big surprises — for example, Billy Sims (153 yards) and Marshall Faulk (143) had big days as highly touted rookies. At the very top is Alan Ameche of the Baltimore Colts, who ran for 194 yards in his debut in 1955.
But only three players like Mitchell — who had played in a game before but had never had a rushing attempt — had more yards in his first game with a carry: Larry Todd of the Oakland Raiders with 149 in Week 9 of the 1965 season, Bob Thomas of the Los Angeles Rams with 144 in Week 1 in 1972 and Bobby Joe Conrad of the Chicago Cardinals with 140 in Week 1 in 1959.
None of those three players even reached 1,000 yards rushing for his career, although Conrad put up impressive numbers as a wide receiver.
It remains to be seen whether Mitchell can become a consistently productive runner, but he's on the right team for that. Since quarterback Lamar Jackson joined the Ravens in 2018, Baltimore has finished in the top three in rushing every season. The Ravens are on track to do so again.
Jackson's own running ability is a big part of that, but Baltimore also has enough depth at running back to withstand the loss of J.K. Dobbins to an Achilles tendon injury in the first game of this season. The Ravens rushed for 298 yards against the Seahawks, with Gus Edwards running for 52 yards and two touchdowns on just five carries.
That dominating effort has brought plenty of acclaim for the offensive line. On Mitchell's 60-yard run in the fourth quarter, center Tyler Linderbaum was alongside the runner — still blocking — about 35 yards downfield.
“I think as an O-lineman, that’s your dream — to get the run game going," Linderbaum said. “Certainly every game, we’re trying to be effective in the run game, because that opens up a lot of other things.”
Mitchell's father Anthony was a defensive back in the NFL. He played from 2000-2005 for the Ravens, Jaguars and Bengals. His son plays a position that puts the ball in his hands more often, and although the Ravens have other options in the backfield, the possibility of a young player with fresh legs giving them a boost is enticing for Baltimore fans.
“I just approach every week the same," Keaton Mitchell said. “Work hard, come out here, watch film and really just prepare. Every team is a good team. This is the NFL. This isn’t college anymore.”