- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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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."