Training Camp Preview: Running Backs


One of the position groups with the most uncertainty heading into the Baltimore Ravens 2014 training camp is the offensive backfield, where Baltimore’s expected top three ball carriers all had some form of issue in the offseason.

Arrests headlined the offseasons of running backs Ray Rice and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro, with a suspension for Rice looming as the season approaches.

2013 backup ball carrier Bernard Pierce is returning from offseason shoulder surgery – not an ideal issue for a running back (pass protection, ability to take defenders straight on) – and just how healthy he will be in 2014 remains to be seen.

Throw in veteran running back Justin Forsett and fullback Kyle Juszczyk and there’s no shortage of names to follow in Baltimore’s backfield in the months of July and August.

Notable new additions: Taliaferro and Forsett – With Rice’s expected suspension, a door will open for Forsett to make the roster, and his familiarity with offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and zone-running ability makes him a prime candidate to take advantage of any missed time by Rice.

Taliaferro won’t have any problems making the roster; the question with him is how much of a workload he can handle early in his career. The strong, patient, methodical runner averaged 6.3 yards per carry in his final season at Coastal Carolina, and his running skill set should translate well to the zone scheme.

His value in the passing game – pass protection is his best asset – will be needed, as in the Rice-less time, Taliaferro may have to relieve Pierce in passing situations, as Taliaferro’s value as a pass protector trumps Pierce’s.

Even after Rice’s return, Taliaferro figures to still be on the active roster, while the best case scenario for Forsett is that he latches on for the games without Rice.

Running back to follow: Kyle Juszczyk – OK, he’s not a running back. But he’s not a fullback, either. We’ll just call him a member of the backfield, as he’ll likely be a fullback, H-back and tight end depending on the formation.

Juszczyk hardly touched the field as a rookie besides special teams, but both his skill set and Kubiak’s arrival point to a steady increase in his offensive role throughout the 2014 season.

He’s the dream diverse offensive piece for Kubiak, who can use Juszczyk as the James Casey of the Ravens.

Expect a defined role in the passing game for Juszczyk, providing quarterback Joe Flacco an extra target out of the backfield that he lacked last season.

Player with most to prove: Ray Rice – Issues off the field aside, Rice’s on-field performance has steadily declined. He averaged a career-low 3.1 yards per carry last season and caught just 58 passes and scored only four touchdowns, both of which were his lowest totals since his 2008 rookie season.

This didn’t come out of nowhere; Rice averaged just 3.6 yards per carry on 84 attempts in the playoffs during the team’s 2012 Super Bowl.

Rice hasn’t looked like his usual self since the end of the 2012 regular season. Will he ever reach his former All-Pro level again?

Even with an improved offensive line to run behind this year, just how much Rice can improve remains a question mark.

This is a running back with over 1,600 career carries and over 400 receptions (including the playoffs). And let’s not forget the 910 rushing attempts he had in three collegiate seasons at Rutgers.

How much does he have left?

All eyes will be on Rice to deliver after a forgettable 2013 campaign. With issues on and off the field over the past year, there’s a target on the former Scarlet Knight’s back.

It’s up to him to return to the old Ray Rice.

2 Raves on “Training Camp Preview: Running Backs

  1. Greg in Boston on said:

    Is Goodell ever going to announce the suspension? It has to happen before training camp I would think or I’d be ticked if I was Harbaugh.

  2. rockymattioli on said:

    well,i`m in the camp that was hoping we would have taken our pick of any rb in the draft instead of Jernigan….rice,even without his down year and potential suspension isn`t a young buck anymore(runningbacks have a relatively short shelflife in the nfl and we`ve ridden ray hard)……..

    we had our pick of a very diverse combination of backs and I was hoping we`d set ourselves up with a guy that could potentially solidify the position for years to come..

    maybe I`ll be proven wrong…or maybe not…I stand by my opinion…I think we missed the boat here…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Hot off the street

Special Teams Aren’t as Special Anymore

With all due respect to Justin Tucker (who is essentially Matt Stover with a bigger club) and Sam Koch who has the 6th best net punting average (41.5) in the league, special teams are overrated. more


Ravens DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Michael Campanaro (thigh); TE Owen Daniels (knee); CB Jimmy Smith (foot); LB Terrell Suggs (neck) LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Justin Forsett (ankle); G Marshal more

TALE OF THE TAPE: An Extra Dose of “Zo”

After a 2013 season in which the Baltimore Ravens rush attack averaged a historically poor 3.1 yards per attempt, the run game in the Charm City has been nothing but positive. Ranking fifth in the more

FANTASY LINKS: Starts and Sits Week 9

Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 9 With teams like the Packers, Bears, and Packers on a bye this week, decisions to start and sit players become even more difficult. The guys over at numberFire more

FILMSTUDY: Defensive Highs And Lows in Cincinnati

Defensive Notes vs. Bengals 10/26/14 Matt Elam’s problems mushroomed Sunday with 5 missed tackles versus the Bengals. How much did that cost the Ravens? Let’s take a look: • (Q1, 13:27): more

View More