Baltimore Ravens Rookie Bernard Pierce is stepping into a big role in his rookie season. He is a third round draft pick that the Ravens traded up to get and he will be getting the ball on game day.
Last season back up running back Ricky Williams carried the ball 108 times for 444 yards with two touchdowns during the regular season. He also had 13 receptions for 83 yards.
That doesn't seem like a lot of work but Pierce is a rookie and could potentially see that many touches in 2012. The Ravens haven't gotten to see as much as they would have liked of Pierce this off season. Word was that he was impressive in OTA's then he got hurt early in training camp and missed a good part of the preseason due to that injury.
In the short time that he has had Pierce has looked pretty good. he fights for extra yardage and shows great patience for a rookie when following his blocks. A little too much patience at times in my opinion. I think the coaches have seen enough that they are comfortable with him being an important part of the offense this season and beyond. I think that they really believed in him when they drafted him and feel lucky that they have such an explosive young player to use on offense.
One factor that may make things a bit easier for Pierce as he grows in the NFL this season is the emergence of undrafted free agent running back Bobby Rainey. Rainey will cut in on some of Pierces touches this season as well so Pierce may not get the workload of Williams last season.
Rainey may also have helped Pierce get the number two spot as well. With the coaching staff having seen so little of Pierce this preseason they may have made the move to bring in another veteran back to sure up the backfield with Ray Rice. It's not just about doing great things when you get the ball that most rookies have to really get passed. It's about pass blocking and not giving up on plays even when your number isn't called. The Ravens found those traits in Bobby Rainey as well so now they know that even if Pierce struggles in some areas at least they have Rainey to shoulder some of the load.
What the Ravens like about Pierce is his downhill, power running style in which he still has enough athleticism to juke players in stride. He runs similar to Arian Foster of the Houston Texans. Pierce will be the change of pace back the Ravens need if the situation calls for a different game plan. With the trio of Rainey, Rice and Pierce all kinds of possibilities open up however. The Ravens can now put a lot of different looks on the field in their running game and their passing game. The build of the running game resembles that of the New Orleans Saints and the passing attack seems to be heading the way of the San Diego Chargers.
This could be a big year or they could go buck wild and fall apart. Usually, us Ravens fans could always count on the defense to bail us out and I believe hat will be true for yet another season. However, I do not think it will be the vaunted drive-stopping juggernaut it has been in the past. There are some young players that will suffer growing pains in their first seasons as starters but hopefully as the season goes on things will fall into place.
For the running game however, Pierce has a large task ahead of him. He will play week one against a very good Cincinnati Bengals defense and he will be expected to make plays.