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Ravens training camp positional preview: Running back

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

In terms of prioritizing a certain playing style, few organizations in football have ‘run the ball well’ higher on the list than the Baltimore Ravens. Unfortunately, that hasn’t quite gone to plan ever since Gary Kubiak left Baltimore to join the Denver Broncos in 2015.

A combination of play calling, personnel, and several other factors have kept the purple and black from being the ground game bruisers they’re typically known for over the past couple of seasons. The question is, will that change in 2017?

If it doesn’t, it won’t necessarily be for lack of talent. Starting ball carrier Terrance West has shown he can be effective, and new run game coordinator Greg Roman will surely be instrumental in unleashing him this season.

At least for the first four games of the year, as second year runner Kenneth Dixon will return from suspension in Week 5. Dixon, a former fourth round pick, flashed some serious promise late in 2016. If he can manage to put it all together (as well as stay on the field), he’ll likely be the Ravens bell cow carrier when he returns, as well as beyond 2017.

Other than those two, pass catching half back Danny Woodhead has been brought into the mix to provide more of a threat on third down, but with Dixon out for the first four weeks, don’t be surprised to see Marty Morninwheg hand him the ball as a runner more often than usual.

Conventional wisdom may dictate the team keeping only three running backs this season, but there is real talent beyond the aforementioned trio. With Dixon on the shelf for the first quarter of the season, we may see Lorenzo Taliaferro or Javorius "Buck" Allen get some reps in 2017 as well. They’ve both shown promise in different roles for Baltimore, and may be needed to deliver on it if they are in fact called upon this season.

With a pretty underwhelming rushing attack quietly becoming a trend in Baltimore, here’s hoping that this year’s squad can buck it in a big way. It all starts with the guys we’ve discussed in this article, so be sure to monitor their progress throughout training camp.

*Editor’s note: News broke this morning that Kenneth Dixon is undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus, per Jeff Zrebiec. The injury could sideline him for a couple months, depending on the severity of the tear. The Ravens are planning to sign former training camp darling Bobby Rainey to provide depth at running back.