Now that the Baltimore Ravens and starting running back Ray Rice have come to terms on a long term deal keeping Rice in Baltimore for five more seasons, Rookie Bernard Pierce can relax a bit and learn how to concentrate on what his role will be in 2012. All Pierce has to do is go back and look at game tape from Ricky Williams last season to see what the team will be expecting.
With Rice back on board as the teams starter that leaves Pierce to compete with second year players Anthony Allen, Damien Berry and fellow rookie Bobby Rainey for the number one back up role. The Ravens have used a trio of running backs in the past to change the pace of the running game from time to time but as Rice has grown into the player he is, the team has also grown in their confidence in giving him a larger work load.Last season Rice was on the field just about as much as he possibly could be. Ricky Williams was brought in mop up duty mostly but was used for a change of pace sparingly as well at times. Some of this may have had to do with Williams age and the Ravens wanting to keep his legs fresh for the post season run but it is hard to justify taking Rice off the field at any time due to his huge play making ability.
The Ravens organization is very high on Pierce though. He may get more situational carries than Williams did last season simply because the team wants to see what he can do on gamed days where he excelled at
Temple. This could give Rice some much needed rest, keeping him fresh for those big plays that have become synonymous with his name.
There will be competition for that second back position in training camp but I believe that Pierce has the upper hand in the situation due to the organizational confidence in the young man. Ozzie Newsome rarely trades up in the mid round to get a player, especially a running back, unless he has very good reason to. It could have been that Ozzie thought the Rice contract may have been unattainable at the time or that they just needed a solid compliment to the All Pro Rice in the back field. One thing is for sure though. The team did not use two draft picks on a guy they plan on sitting on the bench or playing on the practice squad this season.
It is clear now that Bernard Pierce will be the number two. Allen, Berry and Rainey will have to fight for that third position. Whoever wins that battle could find themselves with significantly more playing time than expected. The final decision may come down to who can contribute the most on special teams this season. My guess would be Anthony Allen for the third spot. He has had a full season in the Ravens system now and a full off season to get reacquainted with his role on the team. With his powerful running style and willingness to play his role, whatever that may be, he could be the best option behind the big two. I doubt the Ravens go with four running backs on the opening day roster so that means if either Rainey or Berry cannot impress in preseason or on special teams it may be back to the practice squad for them.