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Harbaugh praises 'dynamic' Ravens running backs

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All offseason we've been hearing the ceaseless praise for the Baltimore Ravens' backfield. The impressive performances in padless practices carried over to the first preseason game.

"Our backs were dynamic," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Thursday night, per the team's official website. "All the backs that played, played well."

With presumptive starter Justin Forsett sitting, Buck Allen got the start against the Carolina Panthers, who own one of the fiercest front sevens in the NFL.

Allen got stuffed on his first two carries and ended up with just six yards on six totes, but added a 19-yard touchdown reception.

Terrance West was clearly the more impressive back. The moment he entered the game, the Ravens began moving downhill.

West's stats weren't all that impressive -- nine carries for 25 yards (a YPC lowered by two rushes from the 1-yard line), one catch for seven yards and two touchdowns -- but his one-cut speed and tackle-breaking prowess were clearly on display. Watching the preseason isn't about stats, it's about identifying traits that can carry over to the regular season when the real hitting starts. West's spry showing Thursday suggests he should push Forsett for carries.

"Last year I didn't touch the end zone," West said of his performance. "So to come back, first preseason game ... I don't care if it's preseason or not, every time you step on that field it's another opportunity to get better. Today I felt, as a group, I felt better."

Another player to keep an eye on is Kenneth Dixon. The rookie led the Ravens with 44 yards on nine carries, including a team-high 19-yard burst. Dixon displayed shiftiness in space, acceleration on the second level and a willingness to take on contact.

(Yes, in the above video Dixon runs through a massive hole, but that move in space is what you should be focusing on.)

Forsett joked this offseason that he doesn't know what a running back by committee is and said he wants to carry the load. With the early display from Ravens runners, he should get used to the idea of sharing carries.

With Joe Flacco returning from an ACL tear, a deep backfield can only be a boon for Baltimore's offense.

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