Training camp battle: No. 3 RB

Training camp battle: No. 3 RB
July 13, 2014, 11:00 am
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When the Ravens open training camp in two weeks, they will begin the process of culling a 90-man roster down to the regular-season limit of 53. There will a few starting spots up for grabs and figures to be intense competition at a few positions. Over the next week, we will look at some of those battles, highlighting a key battle in each position group. (Previously: Backup quarterback)

Training camp battle: No. 3 running back.

The Ravens made a curious choice last year to begin the season with just two running backs, mainly because they kept two fullbacks in Vonta Leach and then-rookie fullback Kyle Juszczyk.

This year, Leach is gone and Juszczyk is a lock to return. But the Ravens running back picture is clouded by the potential suspension of Ray Rice.

Not counting Juzczyk, the Ravens are certain to keep Rice and Bernard Pierce. Justin Forsett and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro are battling for the No. 3 running back spot. Who wins that job? And how does Rice's potential suspension factor in the equation?

If the Ravens are without Rice for the first couple of games -- which seems the likely fallout for his arrest after his offseason altercation with his then-fiancee (now wife) in an Atlantic City casino -- it seems the Ravens will keep both Forsett and Taliaferro, a big, bruiser of a back (6-0, 226).

A couple of other backs will be competing in training camp, including former practice squadder Cierre Wood and undrafted rookie Fitzgerald Touissant.

If Rice is out for any length of time, Pierce would presumably elevate to the No. 1 back provided he is healthy. That has always been the question with Pierce, who has been limited this offseason while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.

Forsett is probably the player who would benefit most from a Rice suspension. He is a six-year veteran who has played for new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, and he performed well in OTAs and the team minicamp. The Ravens didn't use a fourth-round draft pick on Taliaferro to cut him months later, so he seems likely to land on the final roster as well. 

Prediction: Forsett and Taliaferro both make the team while Rice is serving an early-season suspension. When Rice's suspension ends, the Ravens can reassess the roster based on need and injuries. If Rice somehow escapes a suspension, the Ravens break camp with Rice, Pierce and Taliaferro at running back.