It’ll be a three-horse race to see who will back-up Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice this season.
At some point, Rice will return to running with the Ravens’ first-team offense. But until he does, rookie Bernard Pierce and second-year backs Anthony Allen and Damian Berry have an opportunity to make their case as to who the No. 2 running back should be.
Pierce, 22, the team’s third-round draft pick in April, should be considered the favorite at this point. The Ravens traded the 164th overall pick, a fifth-round pick — to the Atlanta Falcons — in order to move up seven spots in the third round to snatch Pierce.
Pierce was the 2011 Eastern College Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year, leading the Temple Owls with 1,481 rushing yards and a school-record 27 touchdowns. The 6-foot, 215-pound Pierce ranked second nationally in scoring with 13.5 points per game.
Local college football fans may remember Pierce for his record-breaking game against the University of Maryland, where he rushed for 149 yards on 32 carries and tied a Mid-American Conference record with five rushing scores.
Meanwhile, Allen brings a year’s worth of NFL experience, though, he had just eight rushing yards on three carries during an injured-riddled rookie season in 2011.
Allen, a seventh-round draft pick last year out of Georgia Tech, was hampered by a hamstring injury for most of his rookie season and played sparingly in five games.
In the preseason, however, Allen was impressive in limited duty. He carried 11 times for 75 yards (6.8 yards per rush) and had one touchdown.
Playing in Paul Johnson’s triple-option offense, Allen had over 1,300 yards his senior season. Additionally, his 6-foot, 230-pound frame provides the Ravens with a big, physical downhill runner.
As for Berry, he spent the entire 2011 season on the Ravens’ practice squad. He racked up over 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns in just two seasons at the University of Miami (he transitioned from safety to running back his junior year). Berry fell out of the mix early on in the preseason last year, as he put up just 34 rushing yards on nine carries.
It’ll be intriguing to see how far Berry has come after getting a year’s worth of pro experience under his belt, even if it was just on the practice squad.
Let the competition commence.