What if, for some random reason, the Baltimore Ravens were forced to play the 2012 season without Ray Rice? Whether is was injury, a hold out or whatever. What would this team do without it's best offensive player and best defensive player from last season? Between Rice and Suggs, they probably won at least 75% of the teams wins together.
Without Rice in the line up we would have 3rd round pick Bernard Pierce as the starter as a rookie. Pierce was considered a steal in the draft and has looked impressive thus far around the facility but is he ready to be the starting running back for a Super Bowl caliber team? The Ravens offense starts and ends through the running back position when Rice is in the line up.
However the team as a whole has played well without Rice on the field as well. Last season when Ricky Williams was on the field the team still managed to be productive. They would pas the ball a bit more but Williams was capable of taking over if need be with the same players we have on the field this season.Would the Ravens make a move for a veteran running back? I think maybe they would but more of a back up to Pierce. I really think the team has a lot of confidence in the young back. If they were to bring in a, let's say, Cedric Benson, I think Pierce would still get the nod as the starter. One of the things I think the team likes is Pierce's running style. He has the same style as Arian Foster in Houston. Foster has had major success in the NFL especially when he was running behind All- Pro fullback Vonta Leach, who is now a proud member of your Baltimore Ravens. I have to think that this scenario has played out in the head of GM Ozzie Newsome at some time or another.
It is unsure what will happen between Rice and the Ravens. He could end up playing under the franchise tag this year and next and then leaving because the Ravens can't afford the lofty contract he desires. Especially when Rice will be in the latter stages of his career at this point. If that were the case, Bernard Pierce was drafted to be the next engine of the Baltimore offense.
So let's say we start the season with Pierce as the starter and Cedric Benson as our number two. How would that effect the Ravens offense? I don't think it would at all really. I think the team would run the ball as much with almost as much success. Not enough can be said about Rice's pension for the big play. He also extends plays well with his lateral movement. In Pierce the team would turn to more of a straight ahead, downhill running style offense.
In this case I thing the offense would still thrive. Vonta Leach would be able to continue to pound away and the passing game could continue to grow. Let's not sugar coat it though. Ray rice is a big time play maker in the NFL just as he was in college. The Ravens will always be a better team with him in the mix but if he does play this year, which I'm sure he will, I wouldn't be surprised if Pierce got more carries than most fans expect.