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Ravens' running back picture could gain clarity starting Saturday

Running backs left to right: Buck Allen, Justin Forsett, Kyle Juszczyk and Stephen Houston during drills at Ravens training camp.
Running backs left to right: Buck Allen, Justin Forsett, Kyle Juszczyk and Stephen Houston during drills at Ravens training camp. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

The Ravens' first two preseason games have done little to define the team's running back depth chart. Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, Terrance West and rookie Kenneth Dixon have all gotten chances, but none of the backs have separated themselves from the pack.

The next opportunity to do that is Saturday night against the Detroit Lions at M&T Bank Stadium.

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"I think the next couple of weeks will give us a better idea," Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman said Wednesday. "We're rolling them in right now. We're trying to get everybody work."

When training camp began about a month ago, the perception was Forsett had a tenuous hold on the starting job. Allen was in line to be his primary backup, and Dixon was going to gradually take on a bigger role as his rookie season progressed. Under head coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens haven't traditionally kept four tailbacks, so West needed a strong summer to earn a roster spot.

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All four of them have had their moments this summer, either in practices or games. Forsett was held out of the preseason opener and then started and had five carries for 11 yards last week against the Indianapolis Colts. Through two weeks, Allen, a fourth-round pick last year, has just 20 yards on 10 carries, but he's made three receptions for 19 yards and a touchdown.

Dixon, a rookie fourth-round pick, leads the team with 66 yards on 16 carries to go along with one catch for 12 yards. West, who looked like the team's most explosive back for much of training camp, has 18 carries for 58 yards, two short touchdown runs, and three catches for 25 yards.

"We tried to run the ball extensively in the first two games and give guys a chance to get some carries early on and become a part of the game," Trestman said. "That's kind of been our mode."

The Ravens backs have said throughout the summer that it's been a friendly competition for carries, but the stakes will certainly be raised Saturday.

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"I don't believe in pressure, man," Allen said. "You just have to go out there and perform."

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