As we have recently discussed, last year was a pretty disastrous one for the Raven’s running game. Pretty much everything that could go wrong did in fact go wrong, from injuries to poor offensive line play. The great thing about the offseason is we fans can try and forget the memories of 3 yards and a cloud of dust. Yes indeed, the offseason is a time for renewed optimism.
But there really are some legitimate reasons to be optimistic when it comes to the Ravens running game. Ray Rice is healthy and looking like his spry old self. Gary Kubiak is on board and looking to make the Ravens his latest example of zone blocking success. Bernard Pierce is the kind of one cut runner that historically flourishes in Kubiak’s system. The additions of rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro and veteran Justin Forsett bring some newfound depth.
Having said that, there are a couple of realities to face. Rice is very likely to get hit with a short suspension for his offseason altercation. Pierce’s nagging injuries from last season have carried over to camp as he is still recovering from a January shoulder surgery. And Taliaferro has already had a minor run in with the law this offseason.
OTAs saw Rice running as the starter followed by Forsett and Taliaferro. We can likely chalk this up as veteran’s preference, as Forsett has bounced around the league and is on his fourth team in four seasons. Early word out of camp is that the Ravens are impressed with Taliaferro’s pass protection, which is often the biggest hurdle rookie runners face when trying to earn snaps.
With Rice likely to face at least a three or four game suspension, we will most likely see Pierce at the head of the pecking order to start the season, with Forsett as the passing down complement. Taliaferro looks to carve out a role as a short yardage and third down back. Taliaferro could wind up being Pierce’s direct backup in the even of an injury if he shows enough early on.
Historically, the Ravens have kept three running backs on the roster. This year we can count on Rice, Pierce, and Taliaferro as locks to stick on the final roster. Forsett appears likely to stick around at least while Rice is out. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them keep four runners this year due to the injuries that plagued the position last season.
What are your thoughts regarding the running back depth chart? Should the Ravens keep four or five backs this season?