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Could Bernard Pierce Get More Carries Than Ray Rice?

Posted Nov 11, 2013

John Harbaugh said whichever running back is playing better should get the rock more.

There’s no denying that running back Ray Rice just hasn’t been the same this season.

Rice gained just 30 yards on 18 carries Sunday against Cincinnati, an average of 1.7 yards per carry. This season, he is averaging 2.5 yards per rush, the lowest mark in the entire NFL among qualified running backs and atypical for the three-time Pro Bowler.

Rice’s struggles have led fans and now media members to wonder whether backup Bernard Pierce should leapfrog Rice and be the Ravens’ featured running back.

On Monday, Head Coach John Harbaugh said that distinction of the starting back is irrelevant, but did leave open the possibility for Pierce to see more of the action.

“Both of those guys are going to get a large number of carries, and I think whichever guy is playing better should get more carries as we go forward,” Harbaugh said.

So far, Rice has had 115 attempts this season and Pierce hasn’t been too far behind with 93.

Pierce hasn’t had all that much more production than Rice this season. He’s averaging just 2.8 yards per carry, the third-lowest average in the NFL.

He does appear to have the hotter hand, however. Pierce ran eight times for 31 yards Sunday against Cleveland, averaging 3.9 per carry. He had a long of nine yards. Pierce also caught two short passes for 12 yards, and showed a little more burst than previously this season.

Despite whoever gets more carries, the Ravens need both running backs to improve if they’re going to turn their run game woes around. Harbaugh said he doesn’t think a change at starter would be the solution.

“Both of those guys have to play for us and play well,” Harbaugh said. “You can’t have one back carrying the ball 35 times these days. We don’t need to do that; we think we’ve got two very good backs.”

Both running backs have been dealing with injuries. Rice suffered a hip flexor strain in Week 2, and just recently told reporters he’s back to full strength. Pierce has been bothered by a nagging hamstring injury for the past five weeks, Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh said both running backs seem to be getting healthier, but still pointed to Rice’s hip to explain his struggles this season.

“Well you’ve got to look at the numbers, and definitely it’s not the same,” Harbaugh said of Rice. “There’s no doubt about that. So what is it? It’s injury or it’s not as much room to run, or it’s both.

“His health has been a factor, there’s no doubt about it. He’s working hard to become healthier, that’s important. That’s a hip flexor, those are muscle injuries and it’s hard to predict exactly what impact that has. But you have to assume it’s had an impact.”

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