A Larger Role for Pierce in 2013?

Pierce TD v Browns 600

One of the pleasant surprises of the 2012 Baltimore Ravens season was the play of rookie running back Bernard Pierce.

The third-round pick won the backup job almost by default during training camp, one that was marked by nagging injuries for the rookie from Temple. However when he began to hit his practice stride his presence was felt as a between-the-tackles runner to complement starter Ray Rice.

He was active for all 16 regular season games as well as the four postseason matchups.

It wasn’t until the second half of the season that Pierce began to develop into a dependable, talented backup running back, despite being a contributor all season long.

He finished the regular season with 532 rushing yards on 108 attempts. His yards-per-carry average of 4.9 was actually half a yard higher than Rice’s average of 4.4. Of course, Rice had 257 rushing attempts, 149 more than Pierce. Yet the numbers still show how much of an impact Pierce made in his rookie campaign.

His breakout game occurred right after the bye week, when he scored his lone touchdown of the season against the Cleveland Browns. After that game, Pierce saw his workload increase, as he had 78 rush attempts in Baltimore’s final eight regular season games.

In the playoffs, he had double-digit rush attempts in two games. He ran for 103 yards on 13 attempts in the Wild Card round against Indianapolis and ran the ball 12 times for 33 yards in the Super Bowl against San Francisco.

His role is likely to increase during his sophomore campaign in Baltimore.

Pierce consistent attacked the box and while he never showed the ability to break away for a score, he consistently gained large chunks of yardage and was rarely ever tackled behind the line of scrimmage.

Pierce’s talent could lead to less carries for Rice, who has seen his workload decline since 2010. After a career-high 307 carries in 2010, Rice had 291 in 2011 and then 257 in 2012. With the short shelf life of NFL running backs nowadays, the Ravens may stay cautious with Rice and continue to give him less carries.

If that’s the case, Rice may see his rush attempts drop to the 220-230 range, as Pierce’s role increases.

Pierce showed during his rookie year that he is a durable running back who can play through an injury, and he can be expected to see his carries total to flirt with the 150 range in 2013.

If Pierce progresses the Ravens could have one of the most dynamic running back duos in the NFL. Rice is a true all-around threat, who could see an increased role in the passing game in 2013. Pierce meanwhile, is a slashing, one-cut runner in the style of Arian Foster. It remains to be seen whether or not he’ll be a consistent contributor in the passing game.

Even though the Ravens signed Rice to a five-year deal prior to the 2012 season, he can’t be expected to play at a top-tier level for another four years. Rice has already shown signs that the unavoidable descent of an NFL running back has nearly arrived.

But with Pierce on the rise, the 2013 season could be the beginning of the talented second-year back’s bid to make Baltimore’s backfield a true one-two punch with similar playing time for both ball carriers.

Should Jim Caldwell distribute carries evenly between Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce in 2013?
Yes (47%)
No, Ray Rice is still the man (46%)
No, Pierce should be the workhorse (7%)
This poll has completed. Thank you for voting. YouTube Preview Image
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About Kyle Casey

Kyle Casey
Kyle's love of pro and college football stems from his passion for the Baltimore Ravens. He has held season tickets in section 542 of M&T Bank Stadium since 2004. He is currently a sophomore Mass Communications student at Towson University....more

30 Raves on “A Larger Role for Pierce in 2013?

  1. Christopher DuVall on said:


    Good article. How did you get the opportunity to write for the Russell St. Report?


    • Melvin on said:

      There aren’t enough questions in the poll. Should they split carries? Maybe. But the benefit of having rice in is him being a dual threat. Sure his carries may decrease, but his snap count shouldn’t.

  2. Mike on said:

    Pierce is already a better sure runner than Rice, and should only get better this year. He broke more tackles than Ray Rice in the run game despite having less than half as many carries(Rice had more overall including as receiver, but Pierce has 21 to Rice’s 20 as a runner). I think Ray Rice may have to take a pay cut next year.

    • g money on said:

      Ray Rice is electric, especially in the passing game. if you dont think Raymond is our best offensive weapon, you are straight trippin.

      • Big Perm on said:

        Ray Rice is a beast. People say some dumb shit on here. Raymond always needs to be accounted for. I think Mike needs to take a pay cut right now! stop talkin reckless son.

        • g money on said:

          as a matter of fact, i think raymond is gonig to have such a beast season we might need to pay his ass more! boom!

        • Ebuhuel on said:

          People tend to forget Rice and Pearce are different type of running backs. Also opposing teams gameplan against rice and not yet against pearce but they probably will next season :-)

        • rich munchel on said:

          Mike is cerainly on the right track. Ray is an excellent receiving back but as a pure runner he has never been HOF caliber. Pierce is going to get A LOT more of tbe carries this coming season. First because he may well be the best pure RB on the team this season, second because Ray, like T. Suggs make too much money to actually play out their current contract. They will be working one into more playing time as they work the other out of as much playing time. NFL realities strike again. I am continually amazed that people do ot seem to ever get the big picture even when it is repeatedly shown to them.

          • g money on said:

            so you would have us re-structure his deal to put off the cap hit, which Ozzie has said he doesn’t do, or you would have us cut him. Cutting him is NOT POSSIBLE. 2014 will be year 3 of his deal, so if we cut him we will take a bigger cap hit then we would save. To be exact, his 2014 cap hit is 8.75M, if we cut him we would take a hit of 14.25M due to the acceleration of his bonuses. So in this case, the big picture is not being shown to me. You can’t cut or offer pay cuts to players in year 3 of a 5 year deal. You can’t just decide you dont want to pay a guy and that’s it. I agree with your statement that alot of people don’t understand the business of the NFL, but in this case the business proves my point and invalidates yours.

  3. Jerry Moore #44 on said:

    Ray Rice is Elite but so is Pierce I think Pierce is better at some things and Ray is better at others Just look at it like this we have a beast mode type runner and a Great scat back who we should play in the slot. Two headed dragon DON’T COUNT LIL RAY RAY OUT EVER HE WILL BE OUR CLUTCH RUNNER FOR YRS TO COME

  4. Mike on said:

    Really? I agree Ray Rice is a great reciever, but as far as running the ball Pierce is vastly superior. Ray always takes what the line gives him, and rarely makes something from nothing in the run game. Pierce almost never gets stopped for a loss despite getting hit in the back field fairly often. Watch that highlight video. Pierce was ome of the best at breaking tackles on a per run basis in the entire NFL. Rice was below average.

      • Mike on said:

        Yes it is, but it shows you an example of the things he can do with the ball in his hands, and it doesn’t include plays where he gets hit 5 yards deep in the backfield, and turns it into a 2-3 yard gain which I think is more impressive than running down the field untouched for a long TD. And to “gmoney” a pay cut and restructuring a contract are not the same thing. Restructuring moves around bonus money to lessen the cap hit in the current year, but pays the same over the length of the contract. A pay cut is… a cut… of pay.

        • g money on said:

          dude, come on. you cant pay cut bonus money, and why would he agree to taking less salary. he wouldn’t. the ravens have no leverage. there is no way that we will offer him a pay cut. do me a favor, take a look at his contract then tell me how you propose to do it. dont just say give him less money, come up with some viable solution that isn’t completely asinine.

    • Sdot on said:

      Well I don’t think it’s fair to compare the two…Ray has NEVER been a pure runner. He’s a playmaker and can line up in the slot or split out wide. With him on the field he is an extra receiver. Pierce is a beast but more one dimensional than Ray. I don’t think u can compare the two. Besides Ray is always a threat to score every time he touches the ball…Pierce so far had demonstrated a threat to get a 1st down every time he touches the ball

  5. Big C on said:

    I actually like Bernard Pierce a lot and think he and Osemele were steals last year. Pierce would start on a lot of teams, he has 1000 yds written all over him honestly. I like him and Rice on the field at the same time with Ray Rice split out wide or in the slot after motioning out of the backfield. Imagine Ray Rice being our WR Screen guy a la Wes Welker, that’s pretty savage right there. If Bernard Pierce can hold up and Bobby Rainey progresses, you have 3 pretty legit playmakers. I’d love to see Ray Rice catch 80+ balls and carry it around 190-210 times, to maximize his touches and explosiveness. People are looking for Boldin’s replacement, when you really only have to replace him on 3rd down in the slot, we have guys on the outside. Ray Rice might just be the best option to make plays from the slot… That could be deadly. We have the makings a real SOLID offense. We basically need at least 1 of Doss, Thompson, Williams, Reed, Streeter, Gurely, Mellette to step up… but probaby 2 will prove worthy of reps…

  6. Phil on said:

    I disagree with saying Pierce is not the type to break off a long run. He doesn’t have top end speed in open space, but do you remember the Giants game? Barely got taken down short of the touchdown by a defensive back. It took a defensive back almost, what, 70 yards to get to Pierce. He’s a very dynamic runner. I like him running more than Rice. He’s more patient when waiting for blocks to develop and he can attack the line. Pierce doesn’t go down usually on initial contact, but if a guy in the front seven gets a grip on Rice, he’s down.
    I’m hesitant to use Pierce over Rice as a receiver because he isn’t very elusive. He can hit you and run over you, but not make you miss. Maybe he can learn from Rice.
    I honestly believe as wear and tear hit Rice in the next year or two, Pierce can make him expendable.

    • g money on said:

      I believe that Bernard Pierce is likely our future, but we won’t move on from Ray Rice until at least after the 2015 season. The cap prevents it. Plus Ray is still young and very dynamic. The two of them together make a sick 1-2 punch.

    • Mike on said:

      Pierce definitely can and has broken off long runs, and remember Rice doesn’t have very good long speed either. I disagree with saying Pierce isn’t very elusive though. He was one of the most elusive backs in the league last year, as far as difficulty to tackle. He may not be Barry Sanders, but he’s very good at making cuts and getting down the field. I think people see his size and just assume he’s a power back,but I saw more of him making cuts and forcing defenders to attempt arm tackles than I saw of him just running over players last year.

    • Melvin on said:

      What bad year? Despite being used less, in the pass and rushing game (thanks to Pierce and Pitta’s increased roles, he had over 1600 all purpose.

      His production is still high, there’s less wear in his body, and he’ll be due a new reduced roll contract around the time Pierce is ready for his new one. Good timing.

    • Mike on said:

      He didn’t have a bad year, he played the same as he always has. He makes plays in the pass game and takes what his o-line gives him in the run game. But he makes too much money for any running back considered how low their value is league-wide now.

    • Sdot on said:

      Exactly smh why is everyone so quick to forget that Ray Rice’s receiving numbers and rushing numbers are considered elite. You crazy if you cut this guy for Pierce. Pierce is an upcoming monster but Rice can’t be contained one on one…Pierce can.

  7. purple snow on said:

    Ray Rice is a great back. RBs take a beating. Cutting back Ray’s carries will extend his career. We are lucky to have two great but different running backs. Do not throw Ray under the bus. He is a great player and can do many things. remember his catch and run for the first down on 4th and 30+. There are few if any other RBs who would have or could have made that play. And some say that single play was a turning point for the season. Ray has accomplished more and over an extended period and so he is better. Be happy with what we have and stop trying to compare the 2. We saw what happened when Pierce played a lot–he got hurt. Ray, thank God, has remained healthy. Stop complaining about Ray.

  8. Dr. Evil on said:

    Splitting time evenly is the best way to keep them both fresh and productive. I’m looking forward to seeing more Pierce this season. Ray is still a great RB and Caldwell is going to utilize all the tools he can this year.
    That’s what I’m really stoked on; the idea that we’re going to have a full season of Caldwell productivity. He’s gonna let these boys light it up.
    Go Ravens!!!

  9. Rick S on said:

    Pierce is a beast. If he is healthy, then he will contribute “big time” to an offensive that is only getting better. It will be interesting to see the plays created to confuse defenses when Rice and Pierce are both in the game. I am loving it.

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