Three Ravens Running Backs Fighting For One Spot


Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce are very clearly the one-two punch at the top of the Ravens' running back depth chart.

But behind them are three players desperately vying for a roster spot beyond this week.

Anthony Allen, Bobby Rainey and recently-acquired veteran Delone Carter will all have one more chance in the final preseason game in St. Louis to show they deserve a place on the 53-man roster for the regular season.

"We have a running back competition going on, and I'm trying to be the third running back," Allen said. "It's definitely a big game for all of us trying to stay on this team. We have to come out and put our best effort forward."

The Ravens typically keep tree running backs on the active roster, and fullbacks Vonta Leach and Kyle Juszczyk both likely on the active roster, that makes the roster spots even tougher to come by in the backfield.

Competition for that running back spot tightened up last week when the team dealt wide receiver David Reed to Indianapolis for Carter.

The third-year running back now has a week to show the coaching staff in Baltimore that he's deserving of a job. Carter did not play in the game on Thursday, but he started practicing over the weekend and expects to play Thursday in St. Louis.

"The most important thing is just retaining the playbook and everything that they tell me really fast," Carter said. "I need to show I'm capable of that, and then get out there and play relaxed at the same time."

Of the three backs, Carter has the most NFL experience carrying the football. The former Colt has 499 yards and five touchdowns in 133 carries during his career. Allen has 19 career carries and Rainey has yet to carry the ball in a regular season game.

All three of them have been given limited reps during the preseason. Allen has been the most productive with 10 carries for 38 yards and a touchdown. Carter has 10 carries for 27 yards and Rainey has seven carries for 19 yards.

With Rice and Pierce not expected to see much time in the final preseason contest, Allen, Rainey and Carter will split up the bulk of the work.

"We hope we can get them enough reps to make certain that we get a really good evaluation of them, just to kind of see what they do," Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell said.

Allen and Rainey both spent time on the Ravens' active roster last season. Rainey initially made the team over Allen out of training camp, but the Raven swapped the two before the first regular season game.

Allen then stayed on the active roster the entire season and played in every game on special teams. Rainey was called up from the practice squad for three weeks before getting played on injured reserve with a knee injury.

Allen's opportunities on offense were sparse, but he did develop into a special teams ace. He was the lead blocker on kickoff returns for Jacoby Jones' Pro Bowl season, and he also finished second on the team with 12 special teams tackles.

"Last year that was what my game was," Allen said. "I hardly played running back and I played special teams. If that's what my role was on the team, then I'd take that gladly and just whatever I can to help the team out."

Rainey has also shown the ability to make plays on special teams, specifically in the return game. He broke a 60-yard punt return last week, and had two kickoff returns for a total of 62 yards. The Ravens have used him more on special teams lately, and that's where Rainey is hoping to make his mark.

"I have to focus more on special teams in order to make this team," Rainey said. "It's whatever they ask me to do. If they ask me to go down on kickoffs, I have to go down on kickoffs and make plays. That's my goal going into this game, is taking a lot of reps on special teams and making plays there."

As late-round draft picks and drafted free agents, Allen, Rainey and Carter have been in this situation before where they're fighting for jobs at the end of the preseason. Their opportunities are winding down, and Thursday night's game against St. Louis will give them possibly their best chance to prove themselves.

"It's definitely exciting," Allen said. "You have to hydrate more this week because I know I'm going to be in there more and getting to show what I can do at running back."

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