Before the Ravens’ first preseason games, a few coaches told rookie running back
They weren’t just offensive coaches. Ravens defensive coaches were curious too.
They got their answer as the big-bodied Taliaferro rumbled for 71 yards on 13 carries, an average of 5.5 per touch. It’s just one game, but it’s a sign that Taliaferro could have an offensive impact this season.
“He has found another gear,” Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak said.
“We walked in the stadium a few weeks ago for practice [and] he played at a different level, at Navy he did, and the other night against San Francisco.”
Taliaferro had a fairly steep learning curve at first. The fourth-round draft pick came out of small-school Coastal Carolina. They ran a zone run scheme, but it was mostly out of the shotgun, which is a totally different look from the Ravens’ new system.
“I think I’ve improved a lot reading the outside zone,” Taliaferro said. “When I first got here I had trouble because I was trying to read holes and not a specific guy. I was trying to get it downhill too fast instead of stretching it.”
The drastic improvement in understating the system has given Taliaferro a lot more assurance toting the rock.
“He just has this look in his eyes of confidence for a very young player,” Kubiak said. “Our whole team sees it.”
The Ravens didn’t have a lot of depth at running back last year, which hindered them when starter
While it’s rare for a fourth-round pick to get offensive or defensive snaps (their main role is usually on special teams) during their rookie year, Taliaferro could find a niche.
The Ravens will need running backs to step up during the first two weeks while Rice is suspended. Outside of that, they could at least use Taliaferro in short-yardage and goal-line situations to utilize his bulky frame and power running style. Taliaferro gets downhill fast, and he’s hard to stop once he does.
“I think that’s one place where I can contribute, but I see myself as a three-down back,” Taliaferro said. “I can pass protect and I can also catch the ball. … There’s still a lot more that I can do and a lot more they’ll ask me to do. And I’ll step up to the plate.”
Kubiak isn’t somebody that has always had big-name running backs succeed in his system. So he could opt for the hot hand, regardless of whether they’re a former Pro Bowler or rookie.
“He’s pushing guys and we’re gaining confidence in him,” Kubiak said. “We’ll see. It’ll sort itself out here over these next few weeks.”