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Dev's Position Analysis: Running Backs

Second in a series. Leading up to the start of training camp, Dev Panchwagh will extensively analyze each position on the Baltimore Ravens. <a href="http://http://ravens.theinsiders.com/2/273771.html">Click here</a> for Dev's QB analysis from Sunday.<br> <br>

Running backs: Jamal Lewis, Chester Taylor, Musa Smith, Alan Ricard, Harold Morrow and Ovie Mughelli

Starter(s): The only thing that can derail Jamal Lewis from remaining the NFL's rushing champion is the legal system. It's no secret that the drug conspiracy charges hovering around Lewis are the biggest concern that the Ravens have to deal with leading up to the start of the season. Needless to say, if Lewis is unable to play for any specific reason, the team will be much worse off. 

On the flip side, if the offensive MVP from last year plays, he will remain the most vital cog in the offense, and keep the Ravens' dominant rush attack going. By gaining over 2,000 yards last season, Lewis carried whatever semblance of any offense the Ravens had. With his ability to break tackles, gain yardage up the middle and in big chunks in the open field off of his cuts, Lewis is the best pure runner in the game. 

To be considered a more flawless player, he will need to improve his receiving skills, and be less prone to fumbling the football. Another key for the coaches will be to keep Lewis' carries down from a year ago. 

Alan Ricard returns as the starter at fullback for a third season in a row. Over the last two seasons, he has quietly developed into one of the better players at his position. Even though he is slightly undersized, Ricard is a tough isolation blocker who does a good job of locating and clearing his assignment consistently in order to provide Lewis with a hole to blast through. 

Ricard is also an adept runner in short yardage situations. Getting him signed to a long-term extension is a necessity. 

Backups: This is one of the deepest groups in the NFL. Both Chester Taylor and Musa Smith will be counted on to spell Lewis this season in various situations, and both players have the talent to handle that responsibility. Taylor is the better complementary player to Lewis. He is a shifty, quick back that also possesses deceptive strength. 

Taylor is also the best pass catching running back on the team, and will be used on third down as a safety valve for Boller. 

Smith's game mirrors that of Lewis' more closely. He has the power and the initial burst to be an effective inside runner in the NFL. However, Smith doesn't have ideal speed, and he will need to show he is a decent blocker. 

At fullback, it is unclear who will assume the main backup position behind Ricard, although Morrow has more experience than Mughelli. Morrow was brought in to be a special teams force, but if needed, he can be an effective starter. He isn't much of a blocker, but he has the hands to be an option in the passing game.

Mughelli is a better fit in the Ravens' offense. He was regarded as the top blocking fullback from the 2003 rookie class. The former Demon Deacon has the prototypical size, strength and toughness you look for in a player playing at that position. 

Grade: A



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