With the end of Training Camp for this abbreviated Off-Season the coaches and Front Office guys of the Ravens are going to have to make the tough calls for who they keep and who they cut as they begin reducing the roster to the required 53 men that will be the Baltimore Ravens Football Team of 2011.
Today we’re going to look at the Runningback position and see who you think will be on the team on September 11th when the Ravens host the Steelers for Week 1.
Currently the Ravens have 8 Backs on the roster, including Fullbacks. When looking at who is one the roster we can make a few assumptions as to who is going to make the team so I won’t be looking to close at them for this article.
Ray Rice, Ricky Williams, and Vonta Leach are all going to be a part of this team for the upcoming season. Last season the Ravens carried four Runningbacks and one Fullback for five Backs total, so that means that with Rice, Williams, and Leach taking three of those five spots the remaining five Backs on the roster are competing for two spots.
But enough of laying the ground work, let’s take a look at the players.
Anthony Allen, RB (Rookie) - 2011 7th Round Draft Pick out of Georgia Tech
Allen has a good upside as runner if he can adapt to an NFL-style offense. He showed some flashes in the second preseason game with 5 carries for 34 yards (6.8 YPC) and a TD. Running Backs Coach Wilbert Montgomery has high hopes for Allen’s potential and the Ravens FO has been high on him as well.
Quote on Allen:
"He’s a tough kid; he will block when he does those fakes [in the wishbone offense], so he’s pretty versatile in that sense - square up and when they give him the belly..." - Joe Hortiz, Ravens Player Personal and College Scouting Director (Source)
Damien Berry, RB (Rookie) - 2011 URFA from Miami
Berry was a successful college Running Back and seems to fit the prototypical NFL-style Runningback in terms of size, weight, and other measurables. He showed some brief flashes of potential in the first Preseason game, but unfortunately an injury kept him from playing in the second game. If he gets healthy he will need to make more of an impact in the next two preseason games if he wants to make the roster; if he can’t get healthy he may be a candidate to be "stashed" on IR for the coming season.
Quote on Berry:
"Damien played at, we all know, the ‘U’ [University of Miami] and the ‘U’ has a good program there, and Damien [...] has to come in and earn his spot. He came in and he took Willis McGahee’s number , so I told him, ‘Those are tough shoes and big shoes you’ve got to fill if you’re going to wear that number.’ So he’s trying [...] to walk that talk. But Damien is a tough kid, hard-nosed kid, and that’s the way he was in college. And so far he has shown some of that toughness here, so I’m looking forward to what he really do once we start going at it." - Ravens Runningbacks Coach Wilbert Montgomery (Source)
Matt Lawrence, RB (3rd Year) - 2008 URFA from Massachusetts
Lawrence has been working his way back into getting a shot at carrying the ball after an injury derailed his season last year. Prior to that in 2009 he was a solid special teams guy with 16 ST Tackles. This year could be a make or break year for Lawrence as the Ravens seemingly are deeper at Runningback than in years past and he could be on the cutting block if he doesn’t show that his injury is past him and he can be a solid contributor.
Quote on Lawrence:
"Matt Lawrence is basically... Everything that Matt does from here on - because he missed a lot of football - he’s learning football all over again. But he’s doing really well. He’s still going to make mistakes, but he’s testing it. It’s training for him all over again. But Matt is on pace." - Ravens Runningbacks Coach Wilbert Montgomery (Source)
Ryan Mahaffey, FB (Rookie) - URFA from Northern Iowa
Mahaffey was most likely signed as a Training Camp body to give Leach breaks and to save the wear and tear on Vonta (and the team’s Linebackers). However, Mahaffey was considered one of the better blockers in the Football Championship Subdivision, where he played primarily at TE and was a redzone target for his team with 6 Touchdowns in his final season at Northern Iowa. A solid athlete overall, Mahaffey also lettered in basketball and trackas well. (Side note the info on the Ravens website may be incorrect, several site list him at 6’4" rather than 6’2" which would make him better suited for Tight End position.)
Quote on Mahaffey:
"A standout athlete at Grinnell High School, he also was a standout athlete at the University of Northern Iowa. That’s sports. He was also a standout at both schools academically." - D.Hayes, Your Weekly Paper Blog (Source)
Jalen Parmele, RB (4th Year) - 2008 URFA from Toledo
Parmele has been a steady contributor for the Ravens since he signed with the team in 2008, making his impact as a special teams player and Kickoff Return, where he has made 33 returns for 845 yards (25.6 avg.) Where Jalen has failed to make any growth when given the opportunity is in the running game as he has only accrued 7 carries for 44 yards. Unfortunately for Jalen he lost the primary KOR job last season to David Reed and only reclaimed it when Reed was injured. His biggest hope this season was trying to get the back-up job to Rice this year after McGahee was cut, but the signing of Ricky Williams made that a much harder goal to achieve for the 4th-year player. In addition, now that Reed is back and the Ravens seem to have a wealth at the KOR position this year if he can’t show more in the running game to prove he deserves a chance to stick around he may be out of job.
Quote on Parmele:
"They’re constantly trying to make the team better, and if they feel like they need to bring in a running back to come and compete, that’s what they did... I can’t take that as them saying, ‘Oh, they don’t trust me." I’ve just got to do what I do, and I’ve just got to prove that I can be the guy..." - Jalen Parmele, Ravens Runningback (Source)
So there you have it, five players, two spots, NFL hopes and dreams riding on the decision.
So loyal Baltimore Ravens fan the question is, if you had a say, who out of these five players would you pick to make the team for the coming season?