Lorenzo Taliaferro: Can he be a receiving threat?


Oct 26, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Baltimore Ravens running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (34) runs into the end zone for a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Bringing in Marc Trestman to fill the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive coordinator void made the team’s question at running back much more interesting. Trestman wants, even requires his backs to be good receivers. This has been an underappreciated facet of Trestman’s presence, and it has huge ramifications for two guys: Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro.

Forsett has already proven to be a quality third-down back. He’s OK as a receiver (44 catches, 263 yards) and shines as a pass blocker, where he consistently stonewalls bigger defensive players who would dare get close to his quarterback. It’s impressive to watch, and that skill alone should earn Forsett a multi-year deal somewhere.

The guy I’m more interested in through the air, though, is Taliaferro, a guy who was not expected to contribute much in the passing game.

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There’s no other word for it, Taliaferro was downright explosive in the passing game this year, catching eight balls for 114 yard. That’s a 14.3 yard average, which is probably unsustainable with more targets but impressive nonetheless.

That production seemingly came out of nowhere: Nobody was talking about Taliaferro contributing in the passing game. Looking back at his college production, Taliaferro did catch 23 balls his senior year, which isn’t bad, but those catches only went for 153 yards, just a 6.7 yard average. Also, this was over the course of a full season as the featured back, so there were a lot more opportunities to be had.

Having caught eight of his ten targets, Taliaferro showed surprisingly consistent hands. Obviously, the Ravens won’t be throwing to him in traffic just yet, but at least Taliaferro can catch the easy safety-valve passes that running backs feed on.

Best of all, Taliaferro showed a knack for turning those catches into yardage, something Forsett didn’t always do consistently.

That said, probably the biggest reason for Taliaferro’s surprisingly high yards per catch average is that defenses just didn’t pay attention to him. He had no reputation, and accordingly, had more space to work with in the passing game than Forsett ever did. That won’t happen again in the future.

What Taliaferro needs to prove is the ability to pass block consistently. Do that, and Taliaferro has the potential to be an every down back. Unfortunately, pass blocking is one of the last things running backs seem to figure out in the NFL, which makes bringing back Forsett a priority.

All in all, Taliaferro becoming the featured back would be a major surprise, but he showed just enough raw talent, both through the air and on the ground, to make it a possibility. Don’t rule it out, just yet.

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