Baltimore Ravens running back Bernard Pierce was a nice surprise last season. The former third-round pick had big shoes to fill when he took over for respected veteran Ricky Williams behind Ray Rice, but he rose to the challenge and etched his name on Baltimore’s heart.
Pierce started off a little slow in the first half of the season, only breaking 20 yards in two games. Though he earned his first touchdown in Week 9 against the Cleveland Browns, it would be another two weeks before Pierce truly broke out. In his last six games, he only dipped below 34 yards once.
Pierce only got better in the playoffs. He gashed the Indianapolis Colts for 103 rushing yards, notched 52 rushing yards against the New England Patriots and gained 33 rushing yards in Super Bowl XLVII against the San Francisco 49ers. When it was all said and done, he had gained 202 yards in four games, averaging 5.2 yards per carry.
Heading into his sophomore season, Pierce could get a bigger slice of the running game. Many have speculated that his carries will increase, and that he and Rice will form a dangerous one-two punch against opposing defenses. Can they be the third pair of halfbacks in NFL history to each gain 1,000 rushing yards in a season?
Rice has broken 1,000 rushing yards in each of his past four seasons as a starter. His production declined a bit in 2012, but not enough to assume he won’t reach 1,000 yards again in 2013. If anything, he will work harder with Pierce chomping at the bit to get more carries.
Predicting how well Pierce will do is a little harder. While it’s safe to assume he’ll improve upon his 532 rushing yards from last season, it’s tough to make the leap all the way to 1,000 yards. It’s certainly possible, though, especially if he can improve his yards per carry average.