Will Rice have big year, but fewer carries?

Will Rice have big year, but fewer carries?
June 24, 2013, 9:15 am
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Rice ready to take on larger leadership role

In each of the past four seasons, Ray Rice has gained at least 1,143 yards with at least 254 carries.

The Ravens love the production. But they would not mind reducing Rice’s carries.

With Bernard Pierce emerging as a quality No. 2 back last season, Rice figures to become less of a workhorse in 2013. A recent story on the Ravens’ website, baltimoreravens.com, indicated the team planned to give Pierce more carries than last season (108).

Durability has never been a problem for Rice, who has played every game since 2009. However, less wear and tear on Rice could mean even more explosiveness late in games, and more longevity for Rice’s career.

Over the last three seasons, Rice had more carries (855) than any NFL back except Arian Foster (956 carries) and Michael Turner (857). Rice had more carries than other prominent featured backs like Chris Johnson (854), Steven Jackson (847), and Adrian Peterson (839).

Having a viable option like Pierce gives the Ravens a chance to lessen the load on Rice. And because Rice is not a selfish player, giving Pierce more touches will not rock the Ravens’ boat.

“Last year was a very long year, and us being able to take the blows off of each other without having to miss a beat was really, really key for us,” Rice said during minicamp.

Rice is an excellent receiver out of the backfield, so his key role in the passing game will continue. His remarkable fourth-and-29 play against the Chargers, eluding multiple defenders for a first down after catching a short swing pass, was a signature moment of last season.

The Ravens don’t want to take those opportunities from Rice. But they do not want to overwork Rice either. Not when they have Pierce, who had a 123-yard game against the Giants in December, and a 103-yard playoff game against the Colts.

How the Ravens divide carries between Rice and Pierce remains to be seen. However, a little less of Rice next season may be better for his career over the long haul.