Taylor creates mismatches against linebackers

OWINGS MILLS - In an authoritative yet muted tone, Baltimore Ravens running back Chester Taylor expressed his constant expectation when isolated against a linebacker. "I know I can beat him," Taylor said as passing camp opened Monday. "That's the kind of mentality I've got." One season removed from emerging as the Ravens' third-down back as a rookie, Taylor is hoping to add to linebackers' ankle problems and embarrassment again.

The Ravens plan to keep using Taylor to create mismatches in pass coverage for opposing defenses. In a December victory over the Texans last season, Taylor exploited the Houston secondary and linebackers by occasionally lining up as a slot receiver. He caught three passes for 40 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown reception from Jeff Blake.

By the end of last season, Taylor had become something of a jack-of-all trades for Baltimore with 487 yards of total offense. Versatility was his hallmark.

"That was huge, particularly on third down," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "We expect that plus some this year. He's got a nice knack for it; excellent out of the backfield. "Now, he has got to take that next step and be that absolute go-to guy on third down out of the backfield."

Taylor had strong moments as a kickoff returner against the New Orleans Saints with five returns for 128 yards along with a two-point conversion. For the season, he averaged 23.6 yards on 10 kickoff returns.

And the former University of Toledo star rushed for a career-high 25 yards on five carries in a win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

"I think Chester has a bright future ahead of him," Ravens veteran linebacker Bernardo Harris said. "He has all the tools. He can make people miss. "He has surprising strength and power. He's going to run over some people this year. He's very compact."

Taylor is slated to be Jamal Lewis' primary backup with third-round pick Musa Smith acting as insurance in case of injury. Lewis is fully recovered from tearing knee ligaments two years ago after rushing for 1,327 yards and six touchdowns last year.

Since Taylor has bulked up to 220 pounds and is now capable of bench pressing 430 pounds, the Ravens' opinion of his capabilities have evolved somewhat, too.

The coaching staff views him as more than just a chance of pace to Lewis' bruising running style.

"We expect him to be an asset to us, really more of an all-around, every-down type of back," Simon said. "He has put some muscle on. He's a little more powerfully-built individual and he hasn't lost any explosiveness at all. "I expect him to be a very evasive and talented runner."

As a college senior, Taylor finished seventh in Division I-A rushing with 1,492 yards. He was third overall nationally with 20 rushing touchdowns. Plus, Taylor has increased his knowledge of the Ravens' offense His comfort level was on display Monday when he sprinted past defenders after catching a swing pass and dashing untouched up the sidelines.

"I've got the plays down pat," Taylor said. "It's coming real easy for me. I'm not nervous about messing up. I'm going to demand a lot from myself."

Coming out of college, a common refrain cited by analysts to Taylor's potential was a lack of ideal size. Taylor is generously listed at 5-foot-11 on the roster, although he appears at least a few inches shorter. Determination is a fairly significant immeasurable, though.

"Chester is a pretty serious competitor," Harris said. "He's got that little-man disease. He doesn't want people to push him around, so he overcompensates."

NOTES: Billick confirmed that defensive end Michael McCrary, who has chronic knee problems, is likely to begin the process of retirement soon and is welcome to work with the coaching staff during training camp. … Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware, Chris McAlister and Frank Sanders were excused from the voluntary camp. … Vince Newsome has been promoted to assistant director of pro personnel from his old post of Western college supervisor. Pro personnel assistants Chad Alexander and Joe Douglas are now area scouts, concentrating on the West and North regions, respectively. The Ravens hired Jeremiah Washburn and Daniel Jeremiah as pro personnel assistants. Washburn is the son of Titans defensive line coach Jim Washburn. … Billick reaffirmed that the Ravens are unlikely to add a veteran backup quarterback such as Brian Griese. "Right now, we're feeling really good about our quarterback situation." Aaron Wilson writes for The Carroll County Times.

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