Pre-Season Battles: Backup Running Back

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 01: Anthony Allen #35 of the Baltimore Ravens looks to block against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on September 1, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Bernard Pierce returned to practice this week in hopes of regaining the lead in the race to be Ray Rice's back up. Pierce has missed valuable preseason practice time and the first preseason game of the year due to injury.

In his absence rookie undrafted free agent Bobby Rainey shined both running the ball and receiving out of the back field. Rainey was a stud at little known Westerns Kentucky but was not drafted due to his diminutive size and supposed durability issues at the next level.

Having been drafted in the third round Pierce was widely considered to be the replacement for the retired Ricky Williams. However he, as well as everyone else, knows that the position will not be simply handed to him. Upon coming into camp it was though that his top two competitors for the back up role would be Anthony Allen and Damien Berry but Rainey has proven to be the most versatile of the backs so far.

Rainey and Pierce could not be more different in their running styles. Pierce is a long striding down hill type of runner that would work extremely well in a zone blocking scheme with a power fullback like Vonta Leach. Rainey, on the other hand, is almost a clone of starting running back Ray Rice. He has that slashing, cut back running style that can be hell for blockers who tend to carry their blocks straight down field.

The fact that Pierce is a change of pace to the styles of both Rainey and Rice could work in his favor. If he were to be slotted as the number two, teams would have to game plan for two uniquely different running styles. Then if rice were to get tired or hurt the Ravens would have a viable option to replace him in their third string back in which they could run the style of offense they have become accustomed.

The next few preseason games will be pivotal as to who stays with the team and who goes to the practice squad or leaves Baltimore all together. I doubt the team will carry four running backs on the 53 man roster.

At this point I'd have to say that, even though he had not played a down with the team yet, Bernard Pierce has to be the favorite to win the number two spot with the talented Bobby Rainey as the third option. Anthony Allen and Damien berry have done nothing in camp or on game day to show they should be ranked any higher than these two. However all of this could change if one of them has a stand out performance Friday night against the Detroit Lions.

If Pierce is not what the Baltimore Ravens hoped he would be in the up coming preseason games it will be very interesting to see weather the team decides to upgrade Bobby Rainey to the number two spot or one of their other in house options. Or if they will decide to test the free agent market for a veteran back as they did last season with Ricky Williams. If this were to happen it could really shake things up.

Hopefully that will not be the case and all the things the Ravens saw in pierce will be justified. He was a touchdown machine in college and has a style that should translate well to the next level. The trio of Rice, Pierce and Rainey could be a very interesting group,reminiscent of the days of Willis McGahee, Le'Ron McClain and Rice in which each player thought themselves worthy of more carries. Rice won that battle and most likely would win this one too but having that much talent in the backfield is never a bad thing.

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