Bernard Pierce had a very good season as a third-round rookie running back for the Ravens last year, gaining 532 yards and averaging 4.9 yards a carry. But there’s no question that Ray Rice remains the Ravens’ top back.
Still, while Rice remains one of the best running backs in the NFL, the Ravens like Pierce enough that they may cut down on Rice’s carries to give more to Pierce. Last year Rice had 257 carries to Pierce’s 108, but the Ravens’ website reports that if Pierce keeps looking good, the distribution of carries will be closer to equal in 2013.
Pierce isn’t as good in the passing game as Rice (Pierce caught just seven passes to Rice’s 61, and Rice is better at picking up blitzes), so there’s no chance that Pierce will get as many snaps as Rice, assuming Rice stays healthy.
But Pierce played some of his best football down the stretch, with a 123-yard game in a Week 16 win over the Giants and a 103-yard game in a playoff win over the Colts, and if he keeps playing like that, it’s going to be impossible for the Ravens to keep him off the field. Baltimore may turn out to have both one of the NFL’s best starting running backs, and one of the NFL’s best No. 2 running backs.