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Ravens running back Lorenzo Taliaferro celebrates running in for a touchdown during the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.
Ravens running back Lorenzo Taliaferro celebrates running in for a touchdown during the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. (Aaron Doster / USA Today Sports)

Lorenzo Taliaferro took a handoff during a June minicamp, picked out a hole and dashed past linebackers into the secondary.

It was a routine play for the Ravens backup running back, but there was a striking difference about how quickly Taliaferro moved compared to his rookie season, when he was noticeably heavier.

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Down to 221 pounds, roughly eight pounds lighter than last season with 4 percent less body fat, Taliaferro has transformed his body this offseason as he competes with rookie Javorious "Buck" Allen to be the primary backup to starter Justin Forsett.

Taliaferro also appears to be more decisive in his cuts.

"I feel good, I feel faster," Taliaferro said in June. "It felt like my weight might be an issue, so I made some changes with my workouts and diet. Going into my second year, I feel more confident. I'm not out there thinking as much. I'm taking my reads and the game is slowing down."

The Ravens coaching staff also noticed a difference in Taliaferro, who rushed for 292 yards and four touchdowns on 68 carries in 13 games last season.

"Lorenzo Taliaferro, he has good vision, and his feet look quicker to me, his burst," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said last month. "He has leaned up a little bit."

A fourth-round NFL draft pick last year from Coastal Carolina, Taliaferro ended the season on injured reserve due to a foot injury. He's now 100 percent and was medically cleared March 1.

Taliaferro rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries in a win over the Cleveland Browns and gained 58 yards and scored a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers. He also caught eight passes for 144 yards as a rookie.

"I never really set statistical goals, but I feel like I can do a lot more this year," Taliaferro said. "I feel like this is a good opportunity for all of us, not just me. I like the offense, catching the ball out of the backfield, everything about the playbook."

Taliaferro lost a fumble against the Pittsburgh Steelers during a loss on Nov. 2 and played sparingly after that miscue, behind backup Bernard Pierce, who was cut this offseason following a driving under the influence arrest and is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"I've been impressed with Lorenzo," offensive coordinator Marc Trestman said. "He's fluid, he does everything right, he's in the right places, he understands our protection package. I feel really confident when he's behind Joe [Flacco] in the running game and in our pass protection scheme. He has been very consistent."

Taliaferro rushed for 1,729 yards and 27 touchdowns in his final season at Coastal Carolina. He effectively ran inside and outside, caught 23 passes for 153 yards and two scores and was an effective blocker.

For Taliaferro to beat out Allen, though, he'll need to keep improving.

"No matter who gets the upper hand, we're all out there competing like we did last year," Taliaferro said. "I played some weeks and Bernard played some weeks. You could start out as the second guy, but you never know when your opportunity might come. It's all about helping your team win. I feel good about how things are going for me."

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