With the Ravens beginning their 20th training camp in franchise history this month, expectations are high for John Harbaugh’s team as they eye their seventh trip to the postseason in eight years.
As veterans report to Owings Mills on July 29th and the first full-squad workout takes place the following day, we’ll examine each position group entering the summer.
July 20: Quarterbacks
July 21: Defensive line
July 22: Running backs
July 23: Linebackers
July 24: Wide receivers
July 25: Tight ends
July 26: Cornerbacks
July 27: Offensive line
July 28: Safeties
July 29: Specialists
Below is a look at the Baltimore running backs:
RUNNING BACKS & FULLBACKS
LOCK: Justin Forsett, Kyle Juszczyk, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Buck Allen
BUBBLE: Fitz Toussaint
LONG SHOT: Kiero Small, Terrence Magee
Synopsis: It’s still strange to think how much this unit has changed from only a couple years ago when Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce appeared on track to being one of the best running back duos in the NFL, but the Ravens should feel very good about the current group. We saw last year that Justin Forsett was a perfect fit for their zone-blocking schemes and you won’t find a better mentor for the other young backs on the roster than the 29-year-old. It will be interesting to see what impact new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman has on the running backs after Matt Forte caught 176 passes out of the backfield over the last two years in Chicago. With the entire offensive line returning, there’s little reason to think this group can’t succeed in 2015 with Lorenzo Taliaferro and Buck Allen competing behind Forsett for carries.
One to watch: The Ravens selecting Allen in the fourth round should grab the attention of Taliaferro, who had a solid rookie season cut short by a foot injury. Reporting to spring workouts looking leaner and faster, Taliaferro figures to have the early advantage for the No. 2 job after rushing for 292 yards and four touchdowns on 68 carries as a rookie. The Coastal Carolina product still must prove he can thrive in a one-cut, zone-blocking system, but his ability in short-yardage situations figures to only improve with experience under his belt.
One on notice: Kyle Juszczyk will need to prove he fits in Trestman’s offense, which didn’t feature much use for a fullback in Chicago. The Harvard product caught 19 passes out of the backfield in his second season, but fumbles did not land him in the good graces of the coaching staff. It also doesn’t help Juszczyk that the Ravens have so many young tight ends, which will likely limit his opportunities as a receiver. Kiero Small wouldn’t figure to provide much of a threat to Juszczyk, but this year will probably go a long way in determining whether the 2013 fourth-round pick is a long-term fit in Baltimore.
Sleeper: Fitz Toussaint wouldn’t figure to have a great chance to make the roster strictly as a running back, but the Ravens’ gaping hole in the return game could improve his chances. The Michigan product worked as a kick returner in the spring and should be in the mix during training camp and the preseason. The Ravens thought enough of Toussaint to not only promote him from the practice squad last year, but he even began receiving some carries, which illustrated how much they liked him as well as the immense disappointment that Pierce was in his final season with Baltimore.