The Baltimore Ravens possess a backfield that hosts several potential starting ball carriers. That certainly is a good thing for them, however, it is difficult at this point to carve out an image of what the running back depth chart will look like heading into week one against the Buffalo Bills.
Incumbent starter Justin Forsett is likely to retain his position provided he is able to return from his broken arm on schedule. After him is where things begin to get a bit murkier. Behind Forsett are Javorious "Buck" Allen, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Kenneth Dixon, Terrance West, and Trent Richardson.
Allen is the most probable to begin the season at number two on the depth chart. He was surprisingly productive in his debut season of 2015. After beginning the year at number three on the depth chart, season-ending injuries to both Forsett and Taliaferro thrust him into the starting role down the stretch. He gained 514 yards and a touchdown on 137 carries, and was a bonus in the passing game, hauling in 353 yards and two touchdowns on 45 receptions.
Following Allen, there are a few different ways that things could shake out. The most likely names to be penciled in at number three are either Taliaferro or the rookie Dixon. Taliaferro will be entering his third season and is most likely be the third back, or splitting the carries with Allen for the second spot if he is healthy. That would be the ideal scenario, but Taliaferro has had injury issues throughout his career and limited exposure would possibly be a way to maximize his talent as a power/goal line back.
With that in mind, Dixon is left as the prime candidate to round out the Ravens backfield as the fourth and final runner to make the team. A fourth-round pick out of Louisiana Tech, Dixon has been hailed as a typical Ozzie Newsome late round steal, and could possibly develop into a future number one back. For now, his rookie status will likely keep him at the bottom of the depth chart, though it wouldn't be wise to rule him out of seeing significant snaps this season. Two years ago, Taliaferro showed his talent as a rookie, and last year Allen did the same thing. Whether it is through injury or his pure talent on display in practices, Dixon most likely will receive opportunities to showcase what he can do in 2016.
In the modern NFL, four running backs making the team isn't necessarily a common occurrence, but with the level of talent that the Ravens possess at the position, it makes sense for them to carry that amount into the season. However, the level of talent they have isn't simply restricted to the aforementioned four names.
The odd men out in this scenario are Terrance West and Trent Richardson. These two players have shown running ability at the professional level, albeit without consistency. West was a third-round pick from Towson University and saw some playing time with the Ravens in 2015. He has talent, but hasn't shown the ability of Allen or Taliaferro, and won't be given priority to make the team over Dixon unless he seriously outperforms him in training camp. West deserves to play football in the coming season, but it won't likely be in Baltimore.
Richardson exploded onto the NFL scene in 2012 after being drafted third overall by the Cleveland Browns. Since then, he has bounced around the league, struggling to produce on the field and take care of himself off of it. His one-year contract with the Ravens likely represents one of his last chances to prove himself as an NFL running back. His comeback attempt is an admirable one, as he has spoken at length about the mistakes he has made, and acquitted himself to getting in shape. Unfortunately, the odds are heavily against him being able to make the Ravens final 53 man roster this summer. His comeback would make a nice story, but it probably won't happen with the Ravens.
The Ravens may lack star power at the running back position, but they are incredibly deep heading into the 2016 training camp. The aforementioned depth chart is likely what the fans will see in week one of the season, but anything can happen in training camp. With that in mind, Ravens fans would be wise to keep their eye on what will likely be one of the most heated positional battles of the summer.