The Ravens' running backs competition has been one of the hottest in training camp. Thursday night's preseason opener just added more gasoline to the fire.
With the group's leader, Justin Forsett, in street clothes on the sideline, Terrance West, Buck Allen and rookie Kenneth Dixon stole the show.
West scored two touchdowns on goal-line rumbles and Allen scampered in on a 19-yard catch and run. Dixon was impressive in his debut and helped deliver a win in the second half.
It lends even more credence to the notion that the pecking order in the Ravens' running backs corps is still up in the air.
"Our backs were dynamic," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "All the backs that played, played well."
Allen was the Ravens' starting running back Thursday night with Forsett held out. The sophomore rushed six times for 6 yards, but also took his one catch for a 19-yard touchdown that gave the Ravens a lead they never relinquished.
Allen got good blocks, but showed the same explosive burst after the catch and pinpoint vision to weave his way into the end zone that was evident last year when he took over as the starter.
West was the next off the bench, and it didn't take long, as he entered on Baltimore's second drive.
West has been grabbing headlines in training camp practice with his trimmed physique and quick feet, but it's another matter to transfer it to the game.
"Last year I didn't touch the end zone," West said. "So to come back, first preseason game … I don't care if it's preseason or not, every time you step on that field it's another opportunity to get better. Today I felt, as a group, I felt better."
On his first carry, West bounced outside to the left behind a block from rookie tackle Ronnie Stanley. West shed one tackler and got downfield for an 8-yard gain. On the next carry, he stuck his foot in the ground and quickly burst through a seam for a 4-yard gain to move the chains.
On the following drive, West got two shots at the end zone from the 1-yard line. He was stuffed on the first, leaving a fourth-and-1 situation. The Ravens went for it and West leapt over the back of his blockers for the touchdown.
"When it's fourth-and-1, it's for all the marbles," West said. "Obviously, we had to get a touchdown in that situation, and I did not want to be denied."
He got another goal-line carry in the third quarter, and started to his left before quickly reversing course and sprinting across the width of the field. He showed his speed to beat a pair of Panthers to the edge, including his former Towson teammate, defensive end Ryan Delaire.
"I said, 'If he comes flat, I'm going to outrun him,'" West said with a laugh. "I saw he came down flat and slow, so I cut it back. I saw him after the game, and he was like, 'Man, you got me.'"
The rookie Dixon wasn't about to be outshined. He led the Ravens running backs with 44 rushing yards on nine carries, including a 19-yard rush on his first NFL carry.
Dixon showed good acceleration and ran with a bit of nastiness and physicality. After getting off to a slow start in training camp because of a knee injury suffered on the first day, he's rebounded well.
"I was like, 'OK, let's get it going,'" Dixon said of his emotions after his first NFL carry. "It's a good competition, but we all want to push each other, there's no animosity on the team. As soon as I came off, T. West told me something, Buck told me something, Justin would tell me something. We all just want to win."