The personnel-managing genius known as Baltimore Ravens‘ General Manager Ozzie Newsome has a knack for finding depth in the later rounds of the NFL Draft. In the third round of the 2012 draft, Newsome found running back Bernard Pierce from Temple University. Had Newsome known this pick was going to flourish immediately, we would have seen Ray Rice‘s contract talks go slightly different.
Pierce showed flashes of greatness throughout the Ravens’ 2012 training camp. Competing against incumbent backup Anthony Allen and a fierce Bobby Rainey, Pierce had his hands full. All three men were eyeing the No. 2 spot behind Ray Rice.
During the preseason it was Rainey who shined in the eyes of the public and on the stat charts, totaling 55 rushing yards, 163 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the preseason. However, Rainey’s ball security and size were factors that played in the final decision. Pierce’s muscular frame and Arian Foster-like running style pushed John Harbaugh and running back coach Wilbert Montgomery to pull the trigger on Pierce.
Although Pierce won the primary backup position, Week 4 is when Ravens fans began to realize the potential of the young upcoming rookie. Even with six carries for 48 yards against a grueling Cleveland Browns‘ defense, Cam Cameron still chose to keep him limited in the team’s game plan. The lack of a consistent ground game is part of the reason Cameron lost his job. New Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell would not make the same mistake.
Pierces’ increased workload put defenses on notice. His aggressiveness to the edge helped give Rice and the Ravens a change of pace back. This one-two punch backfield was critical to the Ravens’ Super Bowl run. Now, Pierce enters training camp with No. 27 in his sights, hoping to push the star, Rice, for more carries and maybe even the starter role.
Rice was upstaged on two different occasions last season when Pierce was given equal opportunities. Week 16 against the New York Giants, Pierce stole the show gaining 123 yards on only 14 carries. Rice had a good performance as well, but had to use 24 carries to get 107 yards.
The second occasion came when it really counted, in the playoffs against the Indianapolis Colts. Pierce put up 103 yards on just 13 carries, while Rice trailed with 68 yards on 13 carries and had two fumbles. Point blank, Bernard Pierce does more with less. “Diddle-diddle, Rice up the middle” may be an in-house saying, but as Drake says, “started from the bottom, now we here” may be another familiar phrase in honor of No. 30.
Keep your eyes open on this great fantasy option. The question is not “if,” but “when” will he supplant Ray Rice as the starter? I believe it will be this season.