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Ravens' Harbaugh reluctant to anoint Terrance West

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Terrance West displaced Justin Forsett as the Ravens' starting tailback in Week 4, generating Baltimore's first 100-yard rushing performance since October of last season.

Although West proved to be a significant upgrade, growing stronger as Sunday's game proceeded, coach John Harbaugh isn't willing to break out the anointing oils just yet.

"I'm not going to get into all of that," Harbaugh said Monday, via the team's official website, of West's potential as the featured back. "I think that's all great to write about, but it's nothing for us to waste any energy on. We're going to put the guys out that are playing well."

West has outplayed Forsett going back to the opening of training camp and throughout preseason action. The game film alone suggested West should have been starting all along.

Reading between the lines, though, Harbaugh was reluctant to gift-wrap the starting job for a young player with motivation and commitment issues in Cleveland and Nashville. Forsett, on the other hand, had earned the benefit of the doubt with his attitude and production the past two years.

Now that impressive fourth-round rookie Kenneth Dixon is on the verge of returning from a late-August MCL sprain, Forsett's roster spot could be in jeopardy as soon as this week.

"Justin Forsett is a highly respected, highly valued guy in my eyes," Harbaugh said of his roster conundrum. "It's a competitive world that we're in. It's a competitive league, it's a competitive sport, and he knows that as well as anybody. It doesn't diminish him in any way. It just enhances him, in terms of how he's handled it. We'll just have to see."

It will be interesting to see how this backfield shakes out in the coming weeks.

Forsett is a luxury the team can't afford to stash on the roster. West has been the most decisive, explosive runner going back to early August. Javorius Allen has been the most effective receiving back going back to last season. Already a coaching-staff favorite, Dixon might just boast the best mix of running and receiving traits.

"Our guys know this: if you're playing hard, you're playing smart, and you're playing fundamentally sound, and you're productive, you have a chance of being out there again because everybody is counting on everybody else to get the job done," Harbaugh explained. "If one of those things falls down, then you leave the door open for another guy to get their opportunity."

West checked enough of those boxes versus the Raiders to keep the door closed for at least another week. If he stumbles while Dixon regains pre-injury form later this month, Harbaugh will revisit the backfield pecking order once again.

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