Baltimore Ravens: All Four Running Backs Should Stay For 2016 Season

Nov 22, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens running back Justin Forsett (29) runs with the ball in the first quarter against the St. Louis Rams at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 22, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens running back Justin Forsett (29) runs with the ball in the first quarter against the St. Louis Rams at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports /

The Baltimore Ravens have a great group of running backs, but will all four be back for the 2016 season?

Baltimore Ravens football has always been about the running game. From Jamal Lewis to Ray Rice, it has been the driving force of the Ravens offense. The lead back these days is Justin Forsett, who is a year removed from rushing for 1,266 yards. Those totals are good for sixth best in franchise history.

Forsett once again led the team in rushing, but his totals dipped from last season. He finished with 641 yards in 10 games played before suffering a broken arm that ended his season. It was Javorius Allen and Terrance West who finished the way for the Ravens after Lorenzo Taliaferro was placed on injured reserve in the first month of season. Now we wonder what the future holds for each running back on the roster.

Teams around the league are going to monitor the Ravens situation as all four players have a place in the NFL. Forsett is a veteran back that works best in a zone blocking scheme. Taliaferro is a bruiser. Allen is a great receiver out of the backfield. West has the size and speed you want from a prototypical running back. What makes the latter so intriguing is that Taliaferro and Allen are only 24, while West is 25 years old.

Forsett has said that he is ahead of schedule and will be ready by the time training camp opens. It’s safe to say that his spot on the roster is secure, which leaves the three youngsters to battle it out for the remaining openings. The question is will the Ravens enter the 2016 season with three or four running backs in the mix. If they decide to go with just three, they have to make a decision on who it will be that sticks around.

The most logical one to go is West. He is the only player that has an expiring contract. He was given an opportunity to play in Baltimore after the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans had given up on him early in the season. It was a move out of necessity once Forsett went down with injury, but that’s not to say the team did not want him. West was coveted by the Ravens in the 2014 draft, but the Browns selected him before Baltimore can keep the Towson product home.

Taliaferro also showed flashes of being a capable starter, but can’t stay healthy. He rushed for just 47 yards at 3.6 yards per carry and a touchdown in 2015, but has battle foot injuries in both of his NFL seasons, and was ultimately placed on injured reserve. Foot injuries with running backs are always troublesome so Taliaferro will have to show he is capable of staying healthy consistently.

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Like many rookies, Allen made some great plays, but also hurt himself. He found out the hard way what it is like to be in John Harbaugh’s doghouse. Allen was benched for a second fumble in as many weeks versus the Kansas City Chiefs, and Harbaugh sat Allen down to emphasize the importance of holding on to the football. He responded with his best rushing totals of the season the following week in the win against the Pittsburgh Steelers. His 867 yards of total offense was second best on the team behind Kamar Aiken, and those numbers came in just six starts.

Before it crosses your mind, forget any idea of the Ravens trading away any of them. No team is going to take a 30-year-old running back and there is no chance Allen is going anywhere. I can’t imagine any team wanting Taliaferro with his nagging injuries, and West was available to the entire league before the Ravens added them to their practice squad.

It is going to be up to the Ravens front office to decide which route they want to go. The first decision they will have to make is whether or not to bring West back, and with the injuries to Forsett and Taliaferro, it would not be a bad idea to do so.

Forsett has hit the magic number that equals doom for running backs, so the Ravens are blessed to have three young players that are NFL ready. Forsett and Allen will likely split most of the carries, and it could come down to Taliaferro and West to battle it out for the short-yardage work.

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In my opinion, the Ravens should keep all four running backs. The running back position is always one that is riddled with injuries so you can never have too much talent that is capable of toting the rock.