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Terrance West takes nothing for granted, especially starting RB role

Terrance West is the Ravens' unquestioned starter at running back. Tom Pennington/Getty Images

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- A year ago, Terrance West was fighting for a roster spot. Now, he's the Baltimore Ravens' unquestioned starter at running back.

But West insists he's as hungry as he's ever been.

"Anything can change any given day, any practice," West said. "Each and every day you’ve just got to come out and perform. You’re as [good] as your last play, so that’s how I look at it."

West will get an opportunity to build upon last season when he set career highs with 774 yards rushing and five touchdowns. Coach John Harbaugh indicated West was atop the depth chart in March and nothing has changed since.

The Ravens didn't sign a veteran back or draft one to compete for the starting job. Plus, West's chief competition, Kenneth Dixon, was suspended for the first four games for performance-enhancing drugs.

"He has done really well; he has looked good at practice," Harbaugh said after an offseason practice last week. "I think he worked really hard in the offseason, and he has improved."

Baltimore is looking for West to become more explosive. He averaged four yards per carry, and he finished with more attempts stopped behind the line of scrimmage (21) than runs of 10 or more yards (19).

What should really help West this season is the addition of Greg Roman. The Ravens added the senior offensive assistant/tight-ends coach to improve Baltimore's ground game, which has produced the third-fewest rushing yards the last two seasons.

In Roman's four seasons as 49ers offensive coordinator (2011-14), San Francisco produced the second-most rushing yards in the NFL (only the Seattle Seahawks had more). As the Bills' offensive coordinator in 2015, Buffalo had the league's top-ranked ground game.

West is pleased with the mark Roman has made on the offense.

"A lot of downhill running, getting straight to it and attacking the defense," West said. "That’s what I like. I think this year is going to be great for running backs."

This is a big year for West. He'll be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, so this year could go a long way in determining what lies ahead.

It's taken hard work for West to get to this point. West went from being the Cleveland Browns leading rusher as a rookie to getting traded to the Tennessee Titans before the start of his second season.

West lasted eight weeks with the Titans (playing in two games) before being waived. The Ravens signed him to their practice squad three days later, and the team gave him the starting job last season after releasing Justin Forsett.

Asked about how much West has matured, Harbaugh said the Baltimore native was given a clean slate with his new team.

"He is here on time. He takes care of his business," Harbaugh said. "He gets along with everybody. He studies football really hard, so it has all been positive."

By taking care of business, West can capitalize on a mistake of a teammate. Dixon's suspension has turned into an opportunity for West.

In the final six games of 2016, West was splitting snaps in the backfield, getting 43.2 percent of the touches (compared to Dixon's 47.3 percent). Now, West is the clear-cut top back.

"I don’t feed into any of that," West said. "I come out here each and every day and give it my all, and let the marbles fall how they fall."