The Ravens got a preview Saturday night of what could happen in the first two weeks of the regular season.
With starting running back Ray Rice suspended for the first two weeks, Bernard Pierce will be the lead dog. In the second preseason game in Dallas, Pierce showed that he can handle the load.
Pierce ran seven times for 55 yards, including a long 30-yard rumble. He looked decisive and powerful in the Ravens' new zone run scheme and consistently picked up good yardage before breaking loose.
"[I'm preparing] exactly the same way," Pierce said.
"The mentality that I was coached in in college and this level is next man up. If something bad were to happen, you have to be ready. If you're not ready, the next guy's going to be ready. It has to be done."
Pierce complimented his offensive line, saying it did a good job of sealing off the backside and getting push on the front side.
Pierce's 30-yard run – the longest for either team – came on the second play of the second half.
It was a delayed handoff and Pierce ran to his left. Undrafted rookie tackle James Hurst let one linebacker run by the play, then took out another with a low block. Pierce burst outside and outran a linebacker to turn the corner.
"There were seams and little cracks every now and then," Pierce said. "Fortunately, I got a big crease one time and I just tried to make the best of it."
Coming off a strong rookie season, Pierce struggled last year. He ran 44 more times as a sophomore than rookie, but for 96 fewer yards. He dropped from 4.9 yards per carry to 2.9 yards.
It was in part due to injuries. Pierce suffered a knee injury in the preseason, then a shoulder injury that required surgery after the season. He played through both injuries without missing a game.
Pierce feels strong as the regular season nears.
"All offseason rehabbing and all camp training, I'm actually excited for the season," Pierce said. "The healing process was an experience. Now that I'm back to 100 percent, I'm ready to roll."
Pierce has accommodated Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak's new zone run system. Pierce said it's simpler for the running back.
"I think what I like better as the zone read game is that you have options," Pierce said. "Once you make a read, after that it's on us."
Rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro had another strong outing as well, showing he could be Pierce's primary backup at the start of the season. Taliaferro ran 16 times for 59 yards and burst into the end zone on a 3-yard run.
Taliaferro ran 13 times for 71 yards in his first preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers.
"He's definitely running hard," Pierce said of Taliaferro. "The zone system is new to all of us, and we're all adapting to it. With time, it's definitely going to get better. He's definitely maturing as a back and a young man. I'll give him his props."