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The Ravens already have their workhorse running back in Ray Rice, but now they have a question about who will serve as his backup.
After the sudden retirement of Ricky Williams last week, the Ravens are examining their options for the No. 2 running back job. The team could look to free agency or the draft, but the search starts with the two players currently on the roster: Anthony Allen and Damien Berry.
Both were rookies last year – Allen a seventh-round pick and Berry an undrafted free agent who spent the season on the practice squad. They both worked as scout team running backs and now they have a chance to step into a critical role.
“It’s going to be interesting,” Running Backs Coach Wilbert Montgomery said. “I think those two kids have a lot of potential and I think they have the chance to be good. We still put it on them to show us what they can do.”
Allen (6-foot-1, 230 pounds) and Berry (5-foot-10, 211 pounds) have different body types and running styles.
“Anthony is a much stronger runner than Damien Berry,” Montgomery said. “Damien is a guy that has some flash; he’s more of a slasher.”
Allen also appears to be further along is his development. He was on the Ravens 53-man roster all of last season, although he was only active for five games.
Allen finished his rookie season with three carries for eight yards, which all came in a Week 3 blowout victory over the Rams. He also saw time on special teams in five games.
In last year’s preseason, Allen showed glimpses of his potential. He averaged 6.8 yards per carry and scored one touchdown in limited action.
“It will be interesting to see where he is going, how far he has grown,” Montgomery said. “I know he is very intelligent. He understands what’s going on and that’s a credit to him because he’s a smart kid.”
One transition for Allen has been adapting out of the triple-option offense that he played at Georgia Tech. Last season he had to adjust to being more of a traditional running back, as opposed to the wingback position that he played a lot of in college.
He has not had a chance to show those adjustments in game action, but Montgomery is looking forward to seeing how he has progressed.
“Will he have the vision to see the holes?” Montgomery asked. “Will he be patient enough to run in his tracks?”
With Berry, the Ravens are hoping to see improvement out of him in training camp and in the preseason. He suffered an injury during the preseason last year and was cut from the active roster before the start of the season. The Ravens then signed him to the practice squad one day later and he stayed there the rest of the season.
“Damien showed enough that he was worth bringing back,” Montgomery said. “Damien is not as advanced as Anthony is at this point, but will he be? That’s yet to be seen.”
Whatever player ends up winning the backup job, the Ravens will look to get a key contribution from him.
Williams was a critical piece in the Ravens’ offense last year and he finished the season with 108 carries for 444 yards and two touchdowns.
The Ravens hope that either Allen or Berry can keep up with that production.
“We’re going to prepare them as starters,” Montgomery said. “Until they prove to us that they can’t do it, we’re going to ride with them.”