Chester Taylor: A Bigger Factor Than We Think?

<p>For the Ravens offense, success in 2002 hinges on Jamal Lewis's legs. The Ravens will need Lewis to perform at or near his 2000 level to take pressure off of first year starting QB, Chris Redman. Unfortunately, Lewis missed all of the 2001 season with a torn ACL, an injury that usually takes 18+ months to return to form, or in football terms, two seasons.

Because of this, the Ravens had targeted RB as a key area to address this off-season.

But, as we all know, circumstances have dictated that what you see on the Ravens roster is likely what you're going to get going into the season. This means, that Lewis will be backed up by a stable of young and unproven RB's including undrafted free agents Tellis Redmon and Dameon Hunter, and 6th round draft choice Chester Taylor. The most likely RB to get a chance to step up and prove that he can be a viable option for the Ravens is Taylor.

Taylor may not have the ideal bio of a blue chip RB. He didn't play at Ohio State. He played at Toledo. He's not 5'11 230 like Lewis; he's 5'11 213. He doesn't have 4.4 speed; rather he's closer to 4.6. If he was just a little faster or a little bigger then chances are he would have been picked in the first 3 rounds.  But, because he isn't that big and isn't that fast, and because he didn't have that Big 10 or other major conference pedigree, 206 players were picked before Taylor.

The Ravens, though, may have gotten themselves a late round gem. Taylor has that slashing downhill style that has become very effective in the NFL (think Denver).   Despite his size, he's got good power and shows a willingness to take on tacklers. While he'll never be a breakaway threat, he does have a nice explosion and an ability to cut back against the grain to get to the outside if need be. He has also shown that he can succeed against the big boys, with 141 yards and 186 yards against Penn State and Minnesota respectively, in the last two years.

Taylor is playing a position that is notorious for having successful middle and late round rookies. He does need to improve his presence in the passing game, as well as his blocking (always a key in the
Billick/Cavanagh offense), but guys like Curtis Martin, Terrell Davis, Mike Anderson, and even undrafted free agent Dominic Rhodes have proven that the learning process for a rookie is not very high. After all, when all is said and done, despite different offenses and different personnel, the concept for a RB is basically the same no matter where he plays.... take the ball and run son.

The most the Ravens can probably expect from Jamal Lewis this year is about 250 carries. Every team in the league last year ran the ball at least 350 times, and all but 4 ran it over 400. The Ravens will almost certainly run the ball 400 times this upcoming season as well. Well, if Taylor establishes himself as the No.  2 to Lewis, he figures to get the bulk of those extra 150+ carries. This translates to about 10 carries a game for Taylor, more likely more early in the season. The more the Ravens are able to rest Jamal Lewis earlier in the year, the more likely he is to be fresh and effective throughout the season, and the more likely Chris Redman will be effective. Well, the only way the Ravens will be able to rest Lewis, is if Taylor or another RB becomes that effective second runner who the Ravens can count on to carry the load
in those times that Lewis won't be available.

By all accounts, Taylor has looked impressive in early camps, light years ahead of 2001 5th round draft choice Chris Barnes. It's hard to tell much in shorts. The proof in the pudding will come when training camp opens and more importantly when the Ravens start to lace them up and play for real....or actually not so real in August.

The memory of Barnes is a bad one for the Ravens and all their fans, but I'll leave you with a happy memory. One guy who Taylor has often been compared to is Priest Holmes, who after all is the guy the Ravens have truly been trying to replace since he left in April of 2001. If he turns out to be even near the player Holmes has turned out to be, the Ravens will be ecstatic.


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