What can the Ravens expect from the Texans?
If Ray Rice is not able to play on Sunday because of a hip flexor, Bernard Pierce will get the first start of his two-year career. And that would leave Shaun Draughn, who wasn't even on the team two weeks ago, as the Ravens no. 2 back.
Can Draughn, who was signed by the Ravens Sept. 11 after being among the Chiefs final cuts, be ready to see time in the backfield that soon?
"He’s been here a short period of time, but (running backs coach) Wilbert Montgomery is working really hard at making certain that he’s getting a good feel for an understanding of what we do," offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said during his weekly news conference on Thursday.
Draughn has not yet suited up for the Ravens; he was a game-day inactive for the Ravens against Cleveland.
When the Ravens set their 53-man roster on Aug. 31, they decided to go with just two running backs in Rice and Pierce, and they jettisoned former No. 3 back Anthony Allen along with running back and kick returner Bobby Rainey. The Ravens had hoped to sign Rainey back to the practice squad, but that plan was derailed when Cleveland claimed him off waivers.
Then after Jacoby Jones went down, and with Pierce nicked up by a thigh injury, the Ravens suddenly needed a third back and signed Draughn, who also has experience as a kick returner. Draughn had 59 carries for 233 yards and two touchdowns for the Chiefs last season in his first full season in the league.
Pierce carried 19 times for 57 yards against Cleveland this past week, shouldering the entire rushing workload after Rice was hurt. Pierce carried a career-high 22 times in the regular-season finale against Cincinnati last season, when many starters sat out after a series or two.
If the Rice-less Ravens hope to keep the ball on the ground against Houston, Pierce could face a workload approaching or exceeding that career high. It's also possible that the Ravens will turn to Draughn for at least a series or two to give Pierce a rest.
"Obviously, he’s not going to be able to come in and do everything that the rest of the guys can do who have been here a number of years," Caldwell said of Draughn. "He’s going to play a role for us, that is for sure.”