Ravens expected to sign Jamel White

OWINGS MILLS -- Jamal Lewis' injured right ankle is encased in a protective boot, and the Baltimore Ravens are poised to entrust their slumping running game primarily to Chester Taylor against the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.<br><br> Beyond an anticipated major shift from the burly Lewis to the shifty Taylor, the Ravens are expected to sign veteran runner Jamel White Wednesday as a backup and a third-down back after holding discussions with James Jackson.

A former disgruntled Cleveland Browns player like White, Jackson is expected to sign with the Green Bay Packers.

White heads to town with a reputation as a competent pass-catcher, darting runner and chronic complainer. This will be White's third team in a year.

The former South Dakota standout was cut after a brief stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this season and was released in March by the Browns after they couldn't accommodate his trade requests.

Over his four years in the NFL, White has rushed for 1,344 yards and nine touchdowns on 362 carries. Most impressively, White has caught 170 passes for 1,290 yards, including 46 receptions for 303 yards and a touchdown last season when he also rushed for 266 yards and a score.

At 5-foot-9, 222 pounds, White is a stocky runner who excels in space against linebackers and safeties.

With Smith out and the Ravens not wanting to overwork rookie return specialist B.J. Sams, the Ravens might also sign a running back to the practice squad this week.

"We needed an insurance policy to help us through this process," Simon said. "With Musa out, we lost a good back who really made good strides for us. We're disappointed we won't have him down the stretch."

The Ravens' running back need became even more glaring with a broken leg sending Musa Smith to injured reserve, and the team remains hopeful that Lewis will only miss one to two weeks, not the four to six forecast by ESPN.

"If Chester has to start on Sunday, we have confidence he'll do an excellent job of making good things happen with our running game," running backs coach Matt Simon said. "He'll bring some consistency, some cutting skills and we look forward to being able to implement a good football player if Jamal can't go."

This would be Taylor's third start of the season, having gained valuable experience when Lewis was suspended for two weeks for violating the NFL substance-abuse policy. Taylor gained 89 yards and 78 yards, respectively, in starts against the Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles earlier this season.

Taylor has rushed for 370 yards on 84 carries, scoring his first touchdown of the season in a 30-10 win over the Dallas Cowboys after Lewis left the game in the first quarter. Held to 33 yards on 15 carries against Dallas, Taylor will take the majority of the repetitions in practice to prepare to start Sunday.

"He's had to pick up the slack already this season, so I think he's really ready to handle this," Simon said. "There's a little more pressure on him because there's no Musa Smith as a backup. We anticipate Chester will carry the load. We think that he's been groomed for this."

At 5-foot-11 and 213 pounds, Taylor is more liable to juke a defender off his feet rather than steam-roll over a tackler, which is Lewis' penchant. Taylor is deceptively strong and has a compact, athletic build.

"Chester plays bigger than he is and has been a great complement to Jamal with a little change of pace," Simon said. "He's not the bruiser and the banger that Jamal is. He's not a guy who's going to run over the safety, so to speak, but he might make him miss."

Taylor heads into a situation where the Ravens' once-dominant ground attack has slipped to 13th in the NFL.

Baltimore has had to shuffle its offensive line and tight ends because of injuries and is averaging 120.4 rushing yards per contest. Since Lewis' suspension ended, the Ravens have been limited to 106 rushing yards against Cleveland, 76 yards against the New York Jets and a season-low 59 yards against the Cowboys.

"In the running game, it takes 11 guys and any misfire or any change anywhere can dramatically affect the entire thing," Simon said.

NOTES: The Ravens instituted a waiting list for permanent seat licenses that has 1,000 members and will initially be limited to 3,000 members to create a realistic possibility to purchase up to six PSLs per customer. … The first round of bidding on the Ravens' black jerseys raised $24,701 for the team's All-Community Foundation. Jamal Lewis' jersey went for $4,450 followed by Matt Stover ($3,051) and Chris McAlister ($2,001). The auctions are on Ebay with a link through the team's Web site. … Linebacker Ray Lewis held his annual Thanksgiving event in South Baltimore on Tuesday, providing turkey dinners and care packages to 440 families.

Aaron Wilson writes for ravensinsider.com and the Carroll County Times.

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