The Ravens saw flashes of what rookie running back Kenneth Dixon can be during their preseason.
A knee injury cost him some time in training camp, and another worse knee injury left Dixon sidelined for the first four weeks of the season. But Head Coach John Harbaugh never forgot what Dixon can offer.
"This is your breakout game," Harbaugh told Dixon last week. "You look like you're ready."
Indeed, Dixon was. The Louisiana Tech product led the Ravens' offensive weapons with 80 total yards in Thursday's 28-7 win over the Cleveland Browns.
Dixon rushed six times for 38 yards (6.3 per carry). He impressively gained 28 of those yards after contact, according to Pro Football Focus.
Showing that he's also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield, Dixon caught five passes for 59 yards. He had 31 yards after contact.
"It felt great," Dixon said. "I had some downhill runs where I got my pads squared going downhill and we had fun."
Dixon had just 15 carries for 23 yards and five catches for 6 yards in the four games before facing the Browns.
The difference was health. Dixon is known for his fine mixture of shiftiness, explosion and power. He has outstanding feet. But with two minor knee injuries at the start of his young career, it took time to fully bounce back.
"It was good to see Kenneth Dixon – he made plays," Harbaugh said. "I think he's back, health-wise. He got back from the knee about four weeks ago, and has steadily looked better.
"I feel like I'm back 100 percent and I'm ready for the workload that the team gives me," Dixon added. "Everything that they give me, I just want to take advantage of."
The emergence of Dixon means big things for the Ravens' rushing attack, which had one of its finest days of the season against the Browns with 119 total yards.
Since the release of Justin Forsett, the Ravens have leaned on Terrance West to carry the load. Adding Dixon gives Baltimore the one-two punch it has been searching for all year.
It remains to be seen how even the split in carries will be (West still had 21 to Dixon's six Thursday night), but Dixon is making a point that he deserves more chances.
That should help keep the Ravens' rushing attack fresher over the second half of the season. West's single-season high for carries is 171 and he's already at 136.
It played out perfectly on Baltimore's final touchdown drive, in which West carried twice for 11 yards to open it, then Dixon followed with two runs for another 11 yards. On the three plays before a 27-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Breshad Perriman, West and Dixon took turns between 5, 10 and 4-yard carries.
"We're close in our room," Dixon said. "No one man ever gets the glory. It gets spread out among all the running backs."