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Ravens training camp breakdown: running backs

Ravens quarterback Josh Johnson hands off to running back Kenneth Dixon during minicamp at the Ravens' training facility.
Ravens quarterback Josh Johnson hands off to running back Kenneth Dixon during minicamp at the Ravens' training facility. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

For 10 consecutive weekdays leading into the start of training camp on July 28, The Baltimore Sun is taking a position-by-position look at the Ravens roster, the players who are locks, long shots and those on the bubble.

The countdown started at the position with the least intriguing roster competition and will end at the most spirited.

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We've already looked at quarterback (July 13), defensive line (July 14), offensive line (July 15), tight ends (July 18), inside linebackers (July 19), cornerbacks (July 20), outside linebackers (July 21) and safeties (July 22). Today, we'll examine running backs:

How many they'll keep: 5 (including fullback)

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Locks if healthy: Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon, Kyle Juszczyk (fullback)

On the bubble: Terrance West, Lorenzo Taliaferro

Long shot: Trent Richardson

Skinny: The Ravens have started with four backs (three tailbacks and a fullback) in seven of John Harbaugh's eight seasons at the helm. If they follow that game plan again this summer, they'll lose one or two ball carriers that have promise.

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There is a clear logjam at this position after re-signing Forsett last offseason, picking up West (Northwestern High, Towson) in November and using fourth-round picks on Taliaferro, Allen and Dixon in consecutive years.

Healthy again after breaking his arm last season, Forsett is still the likely starter even though Harbaugh has vowed to go with the hot hand. Until Allen solves his fumbling issues and gets better in pass protection and Dixon shows what he can do at the next level, Forsett remains the Ravens' most complete back.

Allen is the likely No. 2 following a solid rookie season and Dixon, who was a touchdown machine at Louisiana Tech, should also get opportunities.

West impressed team officials last season and he's worked himself into the best shape of his career. It will be nearly impossible for the Ravens to deny him a spot if he runs like he did earlier this summer. Taliaferro also could factor into the decision making, but staying healthy has been problematic.

Trying to resurrect his career, Richardson was already a long shot before he was slowed by a knee injury. He's currently on the physically unable to perform list after having surgery following the mandatory minicamp. It isn't clear how long he'll be sidelined, but it's hard to foresee where he'll fit in with a crowded backfield.

Unless the Ravens do something hugely surprising like moving on from Forsett or going without a fullback, it could come down to West and Taliaferro for one spot. Carrying more than four tailbacks would limit roster options elsewhere.

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