Before the Ravens' first preseason games, a few coaches told rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro that they were excited to see what damage he could do in live action.
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 Ray Rice (hip) and backup Bernard Pierce (knee and shoulder) were limited by injuries. This year, they have veteran Justin Forsett and Taliaferro behind them.
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."