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The Competition: Backfield


PLEASE NOTE:The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Baltimore Ravens' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Ravens officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.

While the Ravens seem to be set at running back with Ray Rice coming off his first Pro Bowl berth and a full complement of backups, there are still questions as to who will be toting the football.

At least that's the conversation Le'Ron McClain would like to keep at the forefront.

It may be playful, but the "McClain 4 RB" campaign No. 33 is perpetuating on Twitter this offseason highlights the Ravens' wealth in the backfield – and the potential issues that are going to play out during training camp.

Simply put, who is going to lead Baltimore's rushing attack?

Rice still leads the way, but McClain's productive past certainly makes the case to give him more than just a few shots.

With that in mind, takes a look at the Ravens' running back situation:

RB Ray Rice, 3rd seasonWhat He's Done:As the Ravens' primary focus, Rice finished second in the NFL with 2,041 total yards from scrimmage, announcing his status as a dangerous playmaker by leading the league's running backs with 78 receptions.
What He's Going For:Rice feels underrated and wants to prove that 2009 was no fluke. But he has finally broken the Pro Bowl ceiling that is so difficult for young players to surpass.
What He Needs To Do:Rice has been one of the hardest workers in the Ravens' offseason program, so continuing that determination should hold off all competitors.

FB Le'Ron McClain, 4th seasonWhat He's Done:The Alabama product is not only one of the most-punishing blocking fullbacks in the league, but he also paced the Ravens with 232 rushes for 902 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2008.
What He's Going For:While McClain has said he is happy to bulldoze a path for Rice, he makes no secret about his desire to expand his role to more of what fans saw two years ago.
What He Needs To Do:First, McClain must accept the fact that the Ravens need him to block.  But, if he wants more attempts to carry the rock, a few physical demolishing of tacklers during the preseason would help his cause.

RB Willis McGahee, 8th seasonWhat He's Done:The former Pro Bowler (2007) scored a career-high and franchise-record-tying 14 touchdowns last year as a critical red zone runner. He also averaged 5.0 yards per carry.
What He's Going For:McGahee's done a great job ceding the rushing attack to Rice while serving as a standup character in the locker room. Now, he is looking to maintain his status as an elite back even though he is a backup.
What He Needs To Do:Keeping his team-first mentality is a good initial step. But, McGahee has to show he can stay healthy, too. He's been forced to battle through various injuries in the past, which could have stunted his production.

RB Jalen Parmele, 3rd seasonWhat He's Done:Parmele seized the Ravens' kickoff returner job when Lardarius Webb went down with a knee injury, averaging 31.4 yards on nine attempts. He was also a solid backup down the stretch.
What He's Going For:While adding depth at running back, Parmele has the return spot again in his sights.  
What He Needs To Do:Returner is always up for grabs seemingly every training camp, so Parmele will need to break off a big one or two in the preseason, not to mention perform well when he gets his chances on offense.

RB Matt Lawrence, 3rd seasonWhat He's Done:Lawrence saw action in eight games and became a valuable special teamer with 16 tackles.  His 2009 campaign was cut short with a knee injury in late November.
What He's Going For:A special teams spot is again a focus for Lawrence, who could also be gunning for a chance at returner.
What He Needs To Do:Lawrence returned to practice late in offseason camps, so he has to stay healthy. In addition, he can help matters by showing versatility on offense and special teams.

FB Mike McLaughlin, RookieWhat He's Done:As a linebacker at Boston College, McLaughlin was a two-time captain that battled back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament last spring to start nine games in 2009 and finish third on the team with 56 tackles.
What He's Going For:The McLaughlin is seeking to contribute on special teams while backing up McClain at a position he is learning on the go.
What He Needs To Do:Get in his playbook.  Luckily for McLaughlin, the transition from defense to fullback isn't as different as one would think, considering he is sniffing out contact at both positions. Still, he must continue to learn the offense and work on his technique.

RB Curtis Steele, RookieWhat He's Done:The undrafted free agent out of Memphis averaged 6.3 yards on 198 carries in 10 games in 2009, garnering first-team all-conference accolades by running for 1,239 yards and 15 scores despite missing two games and being limited in a third due to an injured left knee.
What He's Going For:With the numbers being as they are, Steele is seeking a role on special teams, while perhaps providing depth at running back.  A practice squad position might also be a good fit.
What He Needs To Do:Steele will need a strong training camp and preseason showing to separate himself, whether it is as a running back or special teamer. His speed and shiftiness could definitely be assets.

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