Besides great defense, the other thing most commonly associated with the Baltimore Ravens is a strong running game. Priest Holmes, Jamal Lewis, Willis McGahee, and now Ray Rice have led the Ravens’ rushing attack. But a common practice in years past was for the Ravens to rely heavily on multiple backs. In 2008 the Ravens showcased their three-headed monster, featuring Willis McGahee, Le’ron McClain, and Ray Rice. Though Rice’s carries increased over the next two seasons while the other two backs’ dwindled, they were still a formidable group. During those three years, the trio rushed for 5775 yards, giving them an average of 1925 a season. Both McGahee and McClain departed Baltimore in 2011 and Ray Rice took a prominent running back role with Ricky Williams acting as a backup. Williams retired in the offseason leaving the Ravens without a proven backup that could provide the offense with valuable carries.
I fully expected the Ravens to take a running back in the 2012 draft, but was not sure when. I was a little surprised when the Ravens jumped as early as the third round, but was not the least bit disappointed when I saw who they selected. At Temple, Bernard Pierce was an impressive back that could really do it all and he had the talent to make a splash in the NFL. It didn’t take long as Pierce has proven himself extremely valuable as a backup to Rice, rushing for over 500 yards this season at 5 yards per carry.
While it took a while for Pierce to earn a spot in the offense, once he did, there was no turning back. Pierce rushed for 212 yards in the final two games of the season, and 103 yards during Sunday’s Wild Card game. He’s done so on a low amount of carries as well, averaging almost 7 yards a carry during those last three games.
The increased role of Bernard Pierce has also helped out Rice, allowing him to catch a breather on the sidelines without losing any production on the field. Both are very similar in their explosive play capability and have broken off some long runs for huge gains.
While we weren’t sure who would fill the role during the offseason, the Ravens have found the two-headed monster of their running attack. Both Rice and Pierce are in a great rhythm heading into Denver and you should expect the Ravens’ ground attack to have another huge game.