Although Ravens running back Lorenzo Taliaferro has emerged as one of the most productive NFL rookies midway through the preseason, he’s still tweaking several aspects of his game.
At 6-foot, 226 pounds, Taliaferro runs in an upright manner reminiscent of past tall NFL running backs like Eric Dickerson and Ricky Watters. It's a constant effort for Taliaferro to maintain his natural approach while also protecting the football, which can become exposed when he doesn't run with sufficient body lean.
“I try to get low,” Taliaferro said. “It's always hard, especially when you want to make a cut. It's harder to do it at full speed. That's something I've got to work on. Natural power, that can only get you so far.”
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The fourth-round draft pick has displayed a powerful running style, steamrolling through tackles to become the leading rusher in the NFL with 130 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries through two preseason games
During the Ravens' 27-20 victory Saturday night over the Dallas Cowboys, Taliaferro rushed for a game-high 59 yards and a three-yard touchdown on 16 carries.
However, Taliaferro also fumbled the football in the fourth quarter in Dallas on a screen pass. Taliaferro had gained 14 yards when Cowboys linebacker Cameron Lawrence forced a fumble and cost the Ravens a first down.
“I didn’t have too many people try to strip the ball in the Big South,” said Taliaferro, the Big South Conference Offensive Player of the Year last season when he rushed for 1,729 yards and 27 touchdowns. “Ball security is the main goal for the running backs. I'm pretty aware of that.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh, whose team leads the NFL with 388 rushing yards on 79 carries, didn't seem overly concerned about whether Taliaferro would make a habit out of losing the football.
“Lorenzo has done a really good job,” Harbaugh said. “He's a hard runner. He's a big body. He's really seeing the plays really well. He's done a nice job in pass protection and he has good hands.
“Turning the ball over, coughing the ball up is never going to be OK, but nobody is more conscious of that than he is. [Tuesday], he had a ball in his hand high and tight all day and the veterans made sure of that. He'll be working on that.”
Taliaferro is averaging 4.5 yards per carry. He rushed for a game-high 71 yards on 13 carries in his NFL preseason debut against the San Francisco 49ers.
“I feel all right, some little mistakes in there that I need to clean up,” Taliaferro said. “I'm trying to be decisive in the zone scheme. There's always room for improvement. I never want to feel like I'm settled or anything's good. When the season is over, I can look back on it.”
Working behind backup Bernard Pierce and Justin Forsett, Taliaferro figures to have a role in the offense during starter Ray Rice's pending two-game suspension for violating the NFL personal-conduct policy.
“We know that Ray's down, so coach said he's going to play some backs,” Taliaferro said. “We're all out here competing, whether it's me or whether it's Bernard. I'm on every special team as well as offense. I'm going to go 100 percent and make sure I'm doing my job.”