The running game was a mess last season for the Baltimore Ravens, and the probable multiple game suspension for Ray Rice isn’t helping anything. Bernard Pierce is probably capable of carrying the load at least in terms of carries, but the team isn’t quite sure he has what it takes to make the most of the opportunity.
Two years into the NFL, Pierce has two big problems when it comes to what the Ravens are looking for in their feature back, which Rice has done quite well until last season: Besides the numbers that running produces, they’re looking for the ability to pick up blitzes and be a meaningful contributor out of the backfield in the passing game. Pierce is neither of those things, at least at the moment.
Not that Pierce has gotten too many chances. He ran for 532 yards on 108 carries during his rookie year, showing plenty of promise as someone who can fill in for Rice as the veteran running back shows signs of slowing down. Last year was rough from every possible angle, as Pierce averaged just 2.9 yards per carry, despite his carry per game average rising from 6.8 to 9.5. A drop was in the books, but he was downright awful in moving forward last season, like most of the Ravens on offense.
Rice will play, and should be better than last season, in which he fell to only 660 yards on 214 carries. He lost some weight, making him a bit quicker and faster, with the Ravens quite impressed with what they’ve seen from him in preseason so far. But there’s also the option of Justin Forsett becoming more important than intended, especially if Pierce continues to disappoint when it comes to him helping protect Joe Flacco.
Forsett is a free agency pickup from the Jacksonville Jaguars. He took only 100 snaps last season for the Jags, but was ranked 27th among all running backs in blocking compared to 111th for Pierce. He doesn’t bring much to the table other than that, but the Ravens are less worried about the yards at the moment, and more about their ability to protect the quarterback.