Ray Rice already has established himself as one of the NFL's top running backs. There can be no doubt about that.
But Bernard Pierce made some noise at that position late last season, and ESPN's Jamison Hensley made some interesting observations about it in a recent blog on the site.
Hensley said the following: "Rice is only 26, but he has taken a lot of hits. Although he put together a fantastic season, as usual, in 2012, he looked worn down late in the year and during the Ravens' Super Bowl run. He has four straight regular seasons with more than 250 carries and has caught at least 61 passes in each of those seasons. Even though he is still extremely potent, Baltimore might be wise to deflect a few more early-down carries toward Bernard Pierce to extend Rice’s effectiveness."
Pierce really seemed to match Rice or at least get in the same ballpark. He ran for an effective 532 yards in the regular season, often giving Rice a break and letting the Ravens change the pace on offense.
But Pierce came on in the post-season, gaining 202 yards in the four games, including 103 in the first-round win over the Colts. He gave the Ravens a big lift when on the field. The Ravens also have Bobby Rainey there, but Pierce is the one who'll get the more carries and action when Rice isn't on the field.
What will be interesting to see is how the Ravens split up the carries among the two. Will Pierce get more playing time this year after he fared so well during the playoffs? That's something the Ravens will certainly take a look at because the right combination of Pierce and Rice could be too much for many defenses to deal with.