Perhaps the most positive storyline that came from the Ravens’ Thursday night loss was the emergence of all three running backs battling for the third spot on the depth chart.
Battling throughout training camp, Bobby Rainey, Anthony Allen, and Damien Berry have embraced the grind to earn their spot on the 53-man squad. All three competitors have given strong outings through the first two pre-season games, and if anything, the third made the race just that much closer.
Rainey, often dubbed a “poor man’s Ray Rice”, is thought to only have a chance because of his possible role in the return game. While he’s proven that he’s an above average option on the other side of kickoffs, his running ability can’t be overlooked. He’s a crafty back that offers more than just a backup presence on a roster. Rainey had just three carries against Carolina, but rushed for 31 yards including a 21-yard scamper.
The Western Kentucky alumnus made his reps in the return game count—one punt return going for about 60 yards.
Rainey has the opportunity to make this team with an ultimate chance to take the punt return job away from Jacoby Jones. It’s going to be the play of his challengers that will determine his fate.
One of those challengers is Anthony Allen, a guy who has made a living on the special team’s unit and is now trying to prove that he can be a quality backup on offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell’s unit.
While his ability as a back has suffered at times, he has shown flashes of talent throughout these fake games. Can special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg afford to lose another key member of his unit? Let’s not forget that the Ravens opted to part ways with special teams ace David Reed earlier this week.
Not mentioned quite as much, but someone who still should be given consideration is Damien Berry. Berry obviously has captured the eye of the offensive coaches receiving more carries than both Allen and Rainey. That said, the added workload could be a “impress us or bring us your playbook” type of deal, but even if true Berry has answered that bell in pre-season action.
He had a 10 yard touchdown rush last night, finding his way through the hole and giving the Ravens hope in what seemed like a hopeless game in the 4th quarter. Players on the bubble like Berry need to show up well on film. Mission accomplished for the former Miami Hurricane.
The question with Berry has to be special teams. With Allen and Rainey contributing, can Berry impress Rosburg enough to build his case for one of the final 53? Ironically, in a twisted way, his impressive block to spring Rainey’s 60 yard punt return may have contributed to his demise.
Complicating the competition even more is the team’s head scratching acquisition of Delone Carter from Indianapolis who provides next to nothing in the way of special teams contributions. Is it possible that the Ravens are considering four running backs for the final 53? Could a north-south runner like Carter have a shot even if he can’t help Rosburg’s crew?
Clearly the backfield is crowded, a problem made even worse by the team’s intent to carry two fullbacks in an era when some teams carry none.
The number 53 has never looked so small, particularly if your name is Rainey, Allen, Berry or Carter.
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