OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It sounds like Dalvin Cook will have a chance to go from signing with the Baltimore Ravens practice squad last week to becoming an impact running back in the postseason.
The Ravens’ running backs created an opportunity for Cook to have a meaningful role in the playoffs with how they finished the season. Baltimore’s current backs — Gus Edwards, Melvin Gordon III and Justice Hill — have not been explosive, combining to average 4 yards per carry over the past seven games.
There have been ball security issues, too. Edwards fumbled in his past two games, and Gordon fumbled for the 19th time in his career in the regular-season finale.
After Cook’s first practice with Baltimore on Wednesday, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he doesn’t see the four-time Pro Bowl back as an insurance policy.
“We view him as a potentially very valuable weapon on our offense,” Harbaugh said. “Dalvin Cook is a high-pedigree player [and] a highly decorated player.
“He’s still got talent and ability and he’s smart. He’s in football shape. I think he’s going to be a valuable part of our team in the playoffs.”
Cook, 28, was the first running back on the field for the Ravens when Wednesday’s practice began. He has two weeks to make an even stronger impression with Baltimore, the AFC’s No. 1 seed which has a first-round bye before hosting a divisional round game on either Jan. 20 or 21.
The Ravens signed Cook to the practice squad on Jan. 4 after he went unclaimed on waivers. The New York Jets cut Cook after 15 forgettable games in which he had career lows in carries (67), rushing yards (214) and touchdowns (0).
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson said he tried to recruit Cook to the Ravens before he signed with the Jets in August.
“With the guys we have on offense, the offensive line we have and him just being the dynamic player he is, the sky’s the limit,” Jackson said. “I believe when he get his opportunity [and] his number’s called, he going to do what he do — cook up.”
The Ravens finished as the NFL’s No. 1 rushing team despite losing top running back J.K. Dobbins to a season-ending Achilles injury in the season opener, and then watched big-play rookie Keaton Mitchell suffer a season-ending knee injury in Week 15. In the three games since Mitchell went on injured reserve, Baltimore’s running backs averaged 83 yards per game (17th in the NFL) and totaled four runs over 10 yards.
Before joining the Jets, Cook was one of the most prolific runners in the league. From 2019 to 2022, he went to the Pro Bowl every year and averaged 111 scrimmage yards per game, which ranked second only to the Tennessee Titans’ Derrick Henry (126).
The Ravens player who is perhaps most familiar with Cook is middle linebacker Roquan Smith. They faced each other twice a year from 2018 to 2021 when Cook was with the Minnesota Vikings and Smith was with the Chicago Bears.
“You have a great deal of respect for the way that guy plays the game,” Smith said. “So I’m glad that he’s here. I think he’s definitely going to be able to help us in whatever capacity that is. I’m grateful that he’s here, and I think it’s going to be a great asset for our team.”