AFC North: Baltimore Ravens

W2W4: Baltimore Ravens

August, 28, 2014
Aug 28
12:00
PM ET
The Baltimore Ravens (3-0) and New Orleans Saints (3-0) face off in the preseason finale Thursday night (8 ET) at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

1. Wide receiver battle. The Ravens have four players (Michael Campanaro, Kamar Aiken, Deonte Thompson and Jeremy Butler) fighting for one or two spots. It all depends on whether the Ravens are keeping five or six receivers. At this point, Campanaro and Aiken have the edge. The Ravens traded back into this year's draft to get Campanaro, so it's obvious the team likes him. Aiken had an impressive training camp, and he is a valuable special teams player. But Thompson could force his way onto the team by scoring a touchdown for the third straight preseason game. Butler seems headed to the practice squad unless he puts together a tremendous performance in the finale. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said the wide receiver battle remains bunched up. "It’s still very competitive because all those guys are doing so well," Harbaugh said. "Nobody has dropped out of the race, and they’re all proving they can play.”

2. Pecking order at cornerback. Newly signed Derek Cox is expected to play, and when he gets on the field, it could indicate where he initially stands with the team. For the past two preseason games, Chykie Brown and Dominique Franks have started and rookie safety Terrence Brooks has worked at nickelback with the first-team defense. Cox hasn't practiced with the team, so the Ravens may bring him along slowly in this game. But, if Cox cuts into the playing time of Brown or Franks, this would be a sign that the Ravens want him to play meaningful snaps to start the season. As I wrote Wednesday, Cox isn't the answer at cornerback for the Ravens.

3. Keith Wenning's status. The rookie sixth-round quarterback appears headed to the practice squad. Will the Ravens give him a chance to prove he deserves to be on the 53-man roster? No one really knows. Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor is starting the final preseason game because the Ravens are sitting Joe Flacco. It's possible the Ravens will let Taylor finish the game because he doesn't get many live reps during the regular season. Wenning has only appeared in one preseason game, and he looked very shaky in his three drives. He completed 2 of 4 passes for 23 yards and fumbled after getting sacked. Harbaugh said the decision to keep two or three quarterbacks is not difficult. "You just decide who your best 53 players are," Harbaugh said. "If the third quarterback is in the top 53, he’s on the team. If he’s not, he’s not. It’s simple.”
In what has been a trend for Baltimore Ravens players, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and linebacker Terrell Suggs dropped this year in ESPN's defensive player rankings.

Ngata
Suggs
Ngata plummeted 13 spots, going from No. 9 last year to No. 22 this year. The fall is warranted for Ngata, who is no longer the top interior defensive lineman in the NFL.

He failed to crack 60 tackles in back-to-back seasons, the first time that's happened in his career. His 1.5 sacks last season were his fewest since 2009.

Ngata could have a good rebound season because he's healthy and he's back playing defensive tackle (after a year of playing nose tackle).

Suggs slipped in the rankings, but not as much as Ngata. Suggs tumbled five spots, falling from No. 23 last year to No. 28 this year.

Last season, Suggs looked like the best player in the league for the first two months, making 60 tackles and nine sacks in his first eight games. He just couldn't sustain that dominance and finished with 20 tackles and one sack in the last eight games.

On the rankings so far, eight Ravens players have made the list: Ngata, Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Torrey Smith, Lardarius Webb, Marshal Yanda, Joe Flacco and Steve Smith. All but one -- Yanda -- dropped in the rankings from the previous year.
The Baltimore Ravens signed journeyman cornerback Derek Cox on Wednesday, a move that does little to solve their issues at that position.

Cox
Cox brings more experience than backups Asa Jackson and Chykie Brown. He has 56 starts in five seasons.

And Cox is an upgrade over the likes of veteran Dominique Franks. He's 27 and a former third-round pick.

But nobody should think the Ravens have adequately addressed cornerback, the biggest weakness on the team. Based on Cox's recent track record, it's a risk for the Ravens to go with him as their No. 3 corner, just as it would be to stick an inexperienced Jackson or Brown there. The Ravens would really be in trouble if one of their injured starters (Lardarius Webb or Jimmy Smith) isn't ready for the regular season and they have to put Cox with the first-team defense.

This is Cox's fourth team in two years. He was previously with the Jacksonville Jaguars, San Diego Chargers and Minnesota Vikings.

Cox signed a four-year, $19.8 million contract with the Chargers in 2013, and he was gone in a year. One of the biggest busts in free agency that year, he couldn't keep the starting job for the entire season and finished as the 106th-rated corner by Pro Football Focux.

He then went to the Vikings in March and he couldn't make it past the first round of cuts. Pro Football Focus had him rated as the 32nd-best corner in the preseason.

This is another one of the Ravens' no-risk additions. Cox is still young and he signed for the minimum ($730,000). When he played for the Jaguars (2009-12), he showed flashes of being a No. 1 corner, which is why he earned a big pay day from San Diego.

Still, there's a reason why Cox was let go by the Chargers and the Vikings in a five-month span. The Ravens might have improved, but they haven't improved enough.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- With only 12 days until the regular season kicks off, the Baltimore Ravens were once again without their starting cornerbacks in practice.

Lardarius Webb hasn't suited up since hurting his lower back on July 25. He walked out onto the field during Tuesday's practice, but he only watched from the sideline.

Jimmy Smith did some running while others practiced Monday, but he wasn't on the field Tuesday. He hasn't practiced since bruising his chest in an Aug. 16 preseason game at Dallas.

Asked whether Smith and Webb will practice by the end of the week, coach John Harbaugh said, "I'm anticipating that."

The Ravens are also without their No. 3 cornerback Asa Jackson, who injured his ankle on Aug. 10. He ran off to the side during Tuesday's practice and worked on his lateral movement with a trainer.

"Asa is making progress," Harbaugh said. "He looked good today moving around."

For the second straight game, the Ravens are going with Chykie Brown and Dominique Franks as their starting cornerbacks for the preseason finale.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Two weeks ago, rookie third-round pick Terrence Brooks was buried on the depth chart and was already called "a disappointment" on a local sports talk show. Flash forward to Saturday night when Brooks was playing with the first-team defense, making an interception (which was negated by penalty) and running down Robert Griffin III for a sack.

[+] EnlargeTerrence Brooks
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsTerrence Brooks, the Ravens' rookie third-round pick, says he's learned what he needs to do to be successful on the field.
Brooks came to the Ravens with the reputation for being the fastest safety in the draft. The speed by which he has picked up the Ravens' system recently has been just as impressive.

"It was kind of slow for a while," coach John Harbaugh said of Brooks' development. "He just wasn't showing that he understood what he was doing. But I think the light came on two weeks ago football-wise. Now, it's really starting to show up with the way he's playing. That gets me fired up."

Brooks was drafted as a free safety, but he's made his impact as a nickelback. With all of the injuries at cornerback, Brooks has stepped up to cover the slot receiver for the starting defense.

He showed great anticipation in jumping in front of Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson for an interception deep in Ravens' territory, a turnover that was negated by a penalty on Dominique Franks. Brooks then forced the Redskins to settle for a field goal in the red zone when he chased down RG III for a sack.

"I've been able to eliminate the clutter so my attitude is, it's just football," Brooks said. "I just need to do the things I've been doing and get more comfortable. I really feel I've taken the steps to do that."

Asked specifically about the "clutter," Brooks said, "Just thinking too much and not playing. I've learned you can't let things get to you and worry about things. My mindset now is they have to beat me. That's the big thing I'm really harping on."

During offseason workouts and the start of training camp, Brooks was playing safety on the third-team defense.

Then, Harbaugh said he noticed how Brooks seemed more sure about his assignments. Brooks suddenly knew what he was supposed to do and where he was supposed to be.

"For him to jump up the last two weeks the way he has is kind of surprising," Harbaugh said. "It seems like it's usually slower going with that position."

There is still a learning curve for Brooks. In the fourth quarter Saturday, he committed a pass interference penalty and later gave up a touchdown.

With the starters not playing in the preseason finale, Brooks will see a lot of playing time Thursday night in New Orleans.

"If he flies around and does the right thing and plays fast like that," Harbaugh said, "that would be a real good sign for us."
Wide receiver Steve Smith showed how many ways he's going to help the Baltimore Ravens in Saturday's preseason game against the Washington Redskins.

Smith
 He caught six passes for 80 yards in one half of work, and nearly each reception highlighted why the Ravens signed him one day after the Carolina Panthers released him in March.

This is how Smith is going to strengthen some of the Ravens' weaknesses in the passing game:
  • Smith fought threw four tacklers to turn a short pass into a 30-yard gain, illustrating how his determination exceeds his size. Ravens receivers had trouble breaking tackles last season. The Ravens averaged 4.89 yards after first contact last season, which was 24th in the NFL.
  • Smith's diving, 24-yard touchdown grab from Joe Flacco at the end of the first half is the type of clutch catch the Ravens need. The Ravens only had five touchdown catches in the last five minutes of a half last season. Only seven teams had fewer.
  • His eight-yard catch on a slant route converted a third-and-5 in the first quarter. That high-percentage throw will be a staple of the Ravens' offense this season, and Smith will be a frequent target on third downs. Since 2002, Smith has the seventh-most third down catches among active receivers (208). Last season, the Ravens ranked 20th in the NFL in third-down conversions (36.4 percent).

"I think he saw a little bit of everything," Flacco said. "He catches the ball great. When he gets to it, he catches it. He runs with the ball well. He’s strong, he’s powerful, he’s quick, [and] he’s fast, so he can break tackles. He’s going to help us out a lot. We’re getting on the same page; every day we’re getting better and better. I think this was a big step with him.”

Throughout his career, Smith has talked about carrying a chip on his shoulder. His determination now comes from proving himself with a new team. Smith spent the first 13 years of his NFL career with the Panthers.

"People are always going to say, ‘OK, it’s great what he did over here, but he’s not there any more. What’s he’ s going to bring to the table?,'" Smith said "So that’s what I want to do is show what I bring to the table.”

The Ravens, though, insist he has nothing to prove to them.

"How many times have we seen him, over the years down there, make a catch? Take that wide turn out of a break and make yards or bounce off tacklers," coach John Harbaugh said. "If you tackle him high, tackle him low, he’s strong, he can bounce out of tackles. And then to go make that catch in the end zone at the half, that’s kind of vintage Steve Smith. So, it was great to see that.”
Joe Flacco wasn't pleased with the Baltimore Ravens' results on fourth down in Saturday's preseason game against the Washington Redskins. He did, however, believe it was the right decision to go for the first down both times.

Flacco
 On the opening drive, the Ravens were stopped on fourth-and-1 at midfield when an unblocked Redskins linebacker hit running back Bernard Pierce in the backfield. Then, on the last play of the first quarter, the offensive line got no push on fourth-and-1 at the Redskins' 11-yard line and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro was stopped for no gain.

Flacco made it clear that he supported the aggressive decision-making of coach John Harbaugh.

"When you’re an offensive guy, and you’re on the field, you want to stay out there," Flacco said. "You want to score points for your team, and going for it on fourth down in those situations is giving you the opportunity to do that. That’s all you can ask for as a quarterback.”

Harbaugh said the decisions to go for it on fourth down were "without question" easier because it was the preseason.

"But, the numbers and percentages, pretty much says, ‘Go for it,'" Harbaugh said. "It’s pretty overwhelming a lot of times. As a coach, you’ve got to make a gut decision on how you feel about it. We’ve gone for it a lot over the years. I think if you look at the track record, we’re pretty aggressive on fourth down. So we like to do that, and we like to have confidence in our guys being able to get there.”

It does seem like Harbaugh has gone for it on fourth down many times over the years. But the numbers say otherwise.

Since Harbaugh became coach in 2008, the Ravens have attempted the fourth-fewest fourth downs (71) in the NFL. Their conversion rate of 46.5 percent ranks 22nd in the league.

How have the Ravens done on fourth-and-one? Under Harbaugh, the Ravens have converted 61.3 percent of those situations (19 of 31), which ranks 22nd in the NFL. There are 10 teams who have a conversion rate over 70 percent on fourth-and-one over that span.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco wasn't shocked when Cleveland Browns rookie Johnny Manziel extended his middle finger toward the Washington Redskins' bench in Monday night's preseason game. Actually, he's surprised by the attention it's received.

Flacco
"I think we've all seen the middle finger before and we should get over it," Flacco said Tuesday.

Manziel may have been reacting to what he heard from the Redskins' bench, because he extended his middle finger over his right shoulder and into the direction of the Washington sideline.

Flacco said he never got harassed to the point where he lashed out like Manziel. But Flacco also said he never dealt with the amount of pressure that's been placed on the Browns' first-round pick.

Instead of criticizing Manziel, Flacco was more emphatic toward him.

"When people say stuff to you, what do you do? You react," Flacco said. "And you usually react in a way that you might not necessarily want to or not necessarily always react that way. I hate to say it, and you don't want to make it that way. But a football field is a place where there is a lot of emotion. Sometimes, those things happen. Obviously, you want to limit to the point where no one else sees it."

Flacco said he's surprised that these types of incidents don't happen more often in football.

"When bullets are flying, it can be pretty crazy out there," he said. "When you watch it on TV and even when we got back and watch it on film, you don't account for all the things that are actually going on out there. Guys are tired as can be. People are saying things to each other. So, that kind of stuff can happen. You don't want it to, obviously. But I always think those things are blown out of proportion and they want something to talk about. This is it today."

Flacco is known for his low-key demeanor. That's why he's known as Joe Cool in Baltimore.

When asked if he had ever extended the middle finger on a football field, Flacco said, "Yeah, I flipped Suggs off the other day in practice."
A look at how the Baltimore Ravens' 2014 draft class has fared halfway through the preseason:

Mosley
C.J. Mosley, inside linebacker: After an impressive preseason opener, the first-round pick took a step back in Week 2. Mosley was sluggish in coverage and missed a couple of tackles while defending the run. For the most part, Mosley has been strong in training camp, showing athleticism and good instincts. He leads the Ravens with 10 tackles this preseason.

Timmy Jernigan, defensive tackle: The second-round pick has been among the top rookies in camp. He has repeatedly broken through the line and got penetration up the middle. That hasn't translated to the two preseason games. Jernigan doesn't have a tackle in 47 snaps.

Terrence Brooks, safety: The third-round pick has moved up the depth chart, playing nickelback with the starters and free safety with the second-team defense. Brooks hasn't broken up a pass in the preseason, but he has a quarterback hit off a blitz.

Gillmore
Crockett Gillmore, tight end: The third-round pick hasn't stood out in training camp. He has just one catch for three yards in the preseason. Gillmore's role could be expanded if Owen Daniels' legs can't hold up for the season.

Brent Urban, defensive end: The fourth-round pick tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on July 30 and is out for the season. Urban was expected to back up defensive end Chris Canty.

Lorenzo Taliaferro, running back: The fourth-round pick leads the Ravens with 130 yards rushing this preseason. His physical style of running has caught the coaching staff's attention. Taliaferro is looking to be the primary backup to Bernard Pierce when Ray Rice is serving his two-game suspension.

John Urschel, guard: The fifth-round pick delivered a key block in Taliaferro's touchdown run Saturday in Dallas. Urschel has moved up to the second-team offense, replacing Ryan Jensen at right guard and increasing his chances of landing one of the final spots on the 53-man roster.

Keith Wenning, quarterback: The sixth-round pick has improved in camp, although it was hard to tell by his performance in the second preseason game. He was 2 of 4 for 23 yards, fumbling on his first pass attempt (which led to a touchdown). Wenning is expected to go on the practice squad as the No. 3 quarterback.

Michael Campanaro, wide receiver: The seventh-round pick finished camp strong and is in position to make the final roster. His quickness and route-running make him perfectly suited for slot receiver. Campanaro could develop into a productive returner as well.
In what became a bad trend last season, Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs would crash inside on a running play and watch the runner race past him for a big gain on the outside. This happened again in the preseason opener.

Suggs
 So, is Suggs getting caught out of position or is that the design of the play?

"It could be a little bit of both, but we do have some calls where we want to take him inside," defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. "The one thing I learned a long time ago [is] if you line up the same way all the time, a guy is going to tee off on you. You need to be able to change it up, so the guy can’t just sit there and know you’re going to be stationary all the time. We’re trying to do, maybe, a little bit more movement up front, too, in some ways, and a little bit of that is ‘Sizz’ [ Suggs]."

Pees said you have to give great players an occasional license to freelance because it allows them to use their instincts.

"I think once in a while you also have to let them be a football player," Pees said. "Now they can’t do it all the time, but sometimes I think you also have to have a little allowance. I always tell the rookies, I say, ‘Look, I’m always going to be fair, not equal.’ So, that’s kind of the way we look at it.”

A six-time Pro Bowl player, Suggs finished last season with 80 tackles, his most since the 2008 season. Last season, Pro Football Focus had him rated as the best run-stopper among all 3-4 outside linebackers.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- No Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman has spent more time in the offensive backfield than rookie second-round pick Timmy Jernigan.

He has used his explosion to get past blockers, and he has blown up plays with pre-snap reads. But the biggest reason why Jernigan has been so disruptive goes back to the first move he ever learned in football.

 When Jernigan was 9-years-old, his father showed him how to use the swim move to slip past offensive linemen. It's a classic football technique where the defensive lineman uses his outside arm on the back of the offensive lineman and then "swims" his inside arm over his shoulder to eventually get around the blocker.

"It's something that I've kept with me," Jernigan said. "I've kind of perfected it by now."

During Wednesday's practice, Jernigan wreaked havoc as part of the second-team defense. He ripped past rookie guard John Urschel for what would've been a tackle behind the line, and he would've had a sack on Tyrod Taylor (if contact was allowed on quarterbacks).

Jernigan is currently backing up Haloti Ngata, but his knack for making big plays will earn him more playing time in the defensive rotation. The development of Jernigan should allow the Ravens to rest Ngata more, which will allow the 30-year-old defensive tackle to be fresher late in games and later in the season.

At this point in camp, the Ravens believe they got a steal in Jernigan, who lasted until the middle of the second round because of a diluted drug test at the NFL combine.

The biggest challenge for Jernigan is playing within the scheme. The Ravens don't want him to freelance too much to get in the backfield and leave the rest of the defense vulnerable.

"I’m really pleased with where he is coming and learning every day a little bit more about the system, because it’s a lot different than what he did at Florida State," defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. "But [he is] very active. And talking to the San Francisco coaches, they commented on a couple of our guys up there, young guys, and he was one of them. It’s always good when you get somebody on the opposing team [to] tell you that they think [a] guy is a pretty good player.”
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Wide receiver Steve Smith was brutally honest when asked recently what he can add to the Baltimore Ravens' offense.

[+] EnlargeSteve Smith
Mitch Stringer/USA TODAY SportsVeteran receiver Steve Smith has been one of the more consistent players during Ravens' camp.
"There was a key third down [during practice] … If I dropped the ball like I did today, then I’m not going to be very good," Smith said.

A drop by Smith has been a rarity at Ravens training camp. He's been catching nearly everything thrown his direction, which is why he's been the team's best and most consistent wide receiver this summer.

It's not unusual to see Smith twist his body to pull in a pass that sails high and behind him. He's also made diving catches deep downfield.

The Ravens knew they were getting a fiery leader when they signed Smith as a free agent in March. They didn't know about his hands, especially after looking at his numbers.

Over the past 10 seasons, Smith has the third-most drops in the NFL, trailing only Brandon Marshall (68) and Dwayne Bowe (57).

In analyzing the stats, Smith's success rate catching the ball is heavily affected by his starting quarterback. In two seasons with Jake Delhomme throwing the ball (2004-05), Smith had a 2.7 drop percentage. From 2006 to 2010, when the Carolina Panthers had seven different starting quarterbacks, Smith's drop percentage jumped to 5.6 percent. Over the past three seasons with Cam Newton, who isn't the most accurate passer, Smith lowered his drop percentage to 4 percent.

So, what's the expectation with Smith catching passes from Joe Flacco?

"He throws a lot of good, easy balls that you can snag [with] one hand," Smith said. "It makes it look good, so I like those."

Smith has been one of the most consistent receivers over the years. Over the past nine seasons, he has caught more than 70 passes in six seasons and put together six 1,000-yard seasons.

His approach to catching the ball is a very simple one.

"It may sound rhetorical, but you have to catch the ball first," Smith said. "You have to figure out when you catch it, why did you catch it that way? And you have to evaluate yourself the same way if you drop it. You catch the pass, you drop the ball -- you have to be able to evaluate. "

Smith added, "A lot of times it’s just getting antsy -- just taking your eyes off of it when you’re wide open. You start to move, you feel the corner on the outside, so you try to give him a little move to the inside, and you forget the ball. It just happens sometimes, and it’s part of the process."

Ravens Camp Report: Day 15

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
4:15
PM ET
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Baltimore Ravens training camp:
  • If inside linebacker C.J. Mosley wasn't on the team, the most impressive rookie would be defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan. He was disruptive again, finding his way into the backfield. The second-round pick is backing up Haloti Ngata, but the Ravens need to find a way to get him on the field.
  • One criticism of third quarterback Keith Wenning has been his arm strength. He is now throwing the ball more decisively and with more pop. There was an intermediate throw to Mike Willie where you could hear the ball hit the wide receiver's hands.
  • Wide receiver Deonte Thompson is hurting his chances of making the team with each passing day. He has to be the unofficial leader in drops this training camp. Another one came Wednesday when he let Joe Flacco's 55-yard touchdown pass go through his hands and bounce off his chest.
  • The Ravens got through three days without fighting with the San Francisco 49ers. They just couldn't stop fighting amongst themselves. In the Ravens' first workout since the joint practices, linebacker Nicholas DiMarco and center Reggie Stephens got into the biggest altercation. The players wrestled to the ground and then had to be separated by teammates.
  • Inside linebacker Arthur Brown has slid down the depth chart since the start of training camp, but he was very active during drills Wednesday. There's no questioning Brown's speed. He often gets lost among the big bodies inside.
  • In a rare occurrence, Justin Tucker missed wide right on a 41-yard field goal. He then hit from 46 yards on his next kick.
  • In a one-on-one drill in the red zone, undrafted rookie cornerback Sammy Seamster picked off a pass in the end zone. It came against Jacoby Jones, who isn't known for fighting for the ball.
  • Schedule: The Ravens have one more practice (Thursday at 11:45 a.m. ET) before ending training camp.
  • Injury wire: TE Dennis Pitta (ankle) had his first full practice after missing the previous two days. ... G Ryan Jensen (ankle) and SS Brynden Trawick (back) also returned after missing some time. ... CB Lardarius Webb (back) missed his 13th straight practice. He last practiced July 25. ... CB Asa Jackson (ankle) was sidelined for his third straight practice. ... G Will Rackley (head) remains out ... DE Kapron Lewis-Moore (Achilles) is scheduled to have season-ending surgery by the end of the week. He tweeted out: "Bright side of this that Achilles doesn't take as long as a ACL." ... ... NT Terrence Cody (hip) is on the physically unable to perform list. ... DE Brent Urban (torn ACL) is out for the season.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Training camp has presented a fine line for Baltimore Ravens running back Lorenzo Taliaferro.

[+] EnlargeLorenzo Taliaferro
Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY SportsLorenzo Taliaferro carried the ball 13 times in the Ravens' preseason opener against San Francisco.
Coaches are telling him to explode through the holes, but he also hears about how they don't want to see players on the ground, which increases the chances of injuries. So, when the rookie fourth-round pick out of Coastal Carolina got his chance to go full speed, he wasn't going to disappoint.

Taliaferro showed off his bruising style of running by gaining 71 yards rushing on 13 carries (5.5-average) in Thursday's preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers last week. That not only led all rookie running backs last week, but it was also the third-highest rushing total in the league. Only the New York Giants' Rashad Jennings (85 yards) and New Orleans' Mark Ingram (83 yards) had more.

"It felt good to just get out there and bang around a little bit," Taliaferro said. "It's always better when you're live, because a guy my size, that's all they speak about is can you get the ball downhill, can you go north and south, and you can't really do that too much in practice."

How much Taliaferro impresses the Ravens will likely determine how much he will contribute early. The Ravens will be without suspended running back Ray Rice for the first two games of the season. While Bernard Pierce is expected to fill in as the starter, Taliaferro is competing against journeyman Justin Forsett (29 yards rushing on seven carries) for the backup role.

"That's exactly what you want to see out of a big, physical back," coach John Harbaugh said of Taliaferro's first game. "We want to see him in tackling-type action. He played well. I was really happy for him with what he did in the game, but we'll continue to build on that and see what he does next game."

At 6 feet, 226 pounds, Taliaferro can move a pile when driving forward. But he often carries the ball in an upright running style, something that will likely change after taking a few more hits.

What Taliaferro has excelled at since joining the Ravens is his pass blocking. He proved that again when he stopped 49ers linebackers in a one-on-one drill Sunday.

"You got to take advantage of the things that you're good at," Taliaferro said. "That was one of the things that gave me an edge on some of the backs in the draft."

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