Oct 26, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Baltimore Ravens running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (34) against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Bengals defeated the Ravens 27-24. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Lorenzo Taliaferro ran (literally) into a bit of a wall his rookie year. You see, the Coastal Carolina University product was a workhorse in his senior season, racking up 276 carries for 1,729 yards and 27 touchdowns. He also proved his worth as a receiver out of the backfield, grabbing 23 passes for 153 yards and two more scores.
Taliaferro faced a bevy of competition last offseason and figured to see scant playing time behind presumed starters Ray Rice/Bernard Pierce, and was also behind Justin Forsett on the depth chart. Once Ray Rice was released and Pierce began to struggle, things began to look up considerably. At least until Forsett decided to break out and put on a Pro Bowl performance.
Taliaferro was left to fight for scraps, and wound up with 68 carries for 292 yards (4.29 yards per carry) and four touchdowns. The Ravens seemed to utilize him as a short yardage, goal line type back and a change of pace to the diminutive Forsett. To make matters worse, the Ravens used a fourth round draft pick on Javorius Allen, who figures to compete for snaps as well.
So you can’t blame Lorenzo for taking action, and take action he has. The big back has dropped eight pounds this offseason, including four percent body fat. It is a dramatic enough change that onlookers noticed it immediately during OTAs. Dropping weight is rarely a bad thing for running backs, and Taliaferro believes it might help him shed the label he unfairly earned last season.
“I just felt like I was getting a label as just a short-yardage guy,” he said. “I thought that if I lost a little bit of weight and got a little quicker, things would start to pan out and I would be labeled as an all-around back.”
“No matter where you go, you’re always going to be labeled by someone,” Taliaferro said. “It’s not that you’re in competition with them; you’re in competition with yourself. How much better can you get year to year?”
It’s not really a surprise that Lorenzo Taliaferro earned the label of a short yardage back last season while playing behind Justin Forsett. He is obviously bigger and more effective in those types of situations, and Forsett earned the bulk of the carries down the stretch. But don’t count Taliaferro out as a future three down back, either.
He proved in spurts that he can handle the load. In week three, for example, Taliaferro toted the rock 18 times for 91 yards and a touchdown, and racked up 58 yards and a score week four against the Panthers. He also finished the season with 8 catches for 114 yards.
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The Ravens may have signaled a small lack of confidence in Taliaferro when they drafted Buck Allen this year, but then again, maybe not. Allen is more of a pass catcher than LT, which is what new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman likes in his running backs. But both are nearly physical mirror images of each other. Taliaferro is 6’0″, 220 pounds, and Allen is 6’0″, 221 pounds.
If nothing else, this year’s running back competition might be one of the best in years. The Ravens have a nice group of talented backs in their stable, and the future at the position is up for grabs with Justin Forsett staring at maybe 1-2 more seasons. Just don’t count out Lorenzo Taliaferro as that future just yet, and definitely don’t slap any sort of label on him.