"Lorenzo [Taliaferro], he's going to be out for a for weeks," said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. "It's an MCL sprain." Ravens reporter Jon Meoli on what this might mean for the Ravens going forward. (Kevin Richardosn/Baltimore Sun)
Ravens running back Lorenzo Taliaferro, slated for a larger role in the offense this season as the primary backup to starter Justin Forsett, suffered a sprained MCL Saturday night against the Philadelphia Eagles and will be out several weeks, coach John Harbaugh said.
"I don't have a degree on it yet, but it's going to be a few weeks," Harbaugh said on Monday. "Some of those young guys are going to step up in the immediate future."
Taliaferro, a fourth-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, was slow to get up on the Ravens' sideline Saturday after he and left tackle James Hurst collided making a tackle on Eagles cornerback Byron Maxwell on the return of quarterback Joe Flacco's second interception of the game. He gingerly walked to the bench, and the team announced he was being evaluated shortly thereafter.
He had entered the preseason with great promise, having refined his 6-foot, 225-pound frame to be leaner and add more quickness to his game. He said the change in his body gave him more stamina and allowed him to separate from defenders better than he had as a rookie.
His season was cut short by a foot injury that landed him on the injured reserve in mid-December, but before that Taliaferro averaged 4.3 yards per carry (292 yards on 68 carries) with four touchdowns as a rookie, jostling behind Forsett with Bernard Pierce for the handful of carries Forsett didn't take every game.
But with Pierce gone, Taliaferro came back for his second season primed to be a bigger factor in the running game, especially as a short-yardage back.
He had 44 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries through two games this preseason, and a pair of catches for 18 yards. But his injury comes at a time that means it's likely another of the Ravens' stable of young runners — rookies Buck Allen and Terrence Magee, plus second-year back Fitzgerald Toussaint — will be first off the bench behind Forsett.
"Buck Allen, I thought, ran the ball really well [Saturday]," Harbaugh said. "Great vision, showed some real looseness in there, and both Magee and Fitz both did a heck of a job. They were running hard, north-south, made some guys miss. And our offensive line really was their third offensive line at that point going against their second defense. … [The running backs] did very well."
Allen, a fourth-round pick this spring, is the Ravens' leading rusher in the preseason with 17 carries for 54 yards, an average of 3.2 yards per carry.
Magee, an undrafted rookie from LSU, led the team Saturday against the Eagles with 11 carries for 44 yards, and caught one pass for 14 yards.
Toussaint chipped in three carries for 20 yards, plus a pair of receptions for 11 yards.
Allen, who has been third on the depth chart and has the distinction of having been drafted — the other two were not — is the front-runner for a larger role, but it's not a runaway. Running backs coach Thomas Hammock said "it's an opportunity for all the guys, to be honest with you.
"Who gives us the best chance to win?" he said. "All those guys are competing, Justin included, and they all want an opportunity to show what they can do."
Three three young running backs likely would have been featured in the fourth preseason game at the Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 3, when the starters mostly sit and players on the back end of the roster get big opportunities.
Hammock said they'll look at the remaining practices, as well as Saturday's game against the Washington Redskins, to determine the pecking order behind Forsett.
"I think the big thing about the way our practices are set up, everybody gets reps," Hammock said. "They all have an opportunity to show what they can do. The great thing is we have two more games for guys to go out there and prove exactly what kind of player they can be."