Running Backs Could Split No. 2 Job


The Ravens had a clear pecking order in the backfield last season.

Ray Rice was the No. 1 option and veteran Ricky Williams was used to spell him. The system worked perfectly for the Ravens, as Rice led the NFL with 2,068 yards from scrimmage and he called Williams the "best thing to ever happen to me."

But then Williams unexpectedly retired this offseason, leaving a hole in the backfield.

Anthony Allen, Damien Berry and rookie Bernard Pierce are all competing for a chance to take over that spot behind Rice, but rather than one player winning the No. 2 job, they could actually end up sharing the duties.

"I think they're all fighting for various slices of the role," Head Coach John Harbaugh said Thursday. "Ricky had most of that last year. These guys could divide that up this year, possibly."

Harbaugh suggested that they could bring in different backs based on the down and distance, as one may be better suited for short yardage compared to passing situations.

Allen, Berry and Pierce all bring different running styles to the table.

Allen, the only one of the three to spend last year on the active roster, is a powerful runner with similar size to Williams. The 6-foot-1, 223-pound running back appears to be the leader in the competition coming into camp, as he took a number of the reps with the first team during the offseason practices when Rice was out.

Allen was on the 53-man roster for all of last season, but saw limited action because Rice and Williams gobbled up nearly all of the carries. The seventh-round draft pick was able to showcase his talent last preseason, as he averaged 6.8 yards per carry and had one touchdown.

"We like Anthony Allen," General Manager Ozzie Newsome said earlier this offseason. "We're going to give him every opportunity to be that guy."

Berry is a speedy back who spent last season on the practice squad. He has bulked up this offseason and added about 15 pounds, but still describes his running style as "fast and physical."

The University of Miami product played defense for two years in college and he is looking for special-teams coverage to be a way onto the roster. He has also worked at kick returner in practice.

"I think I'm a more special-teams guy than the rest of the backs because I played defense in college," Berry said.

Pierce, the Ravens' third-round draft pick, is still the most unknown commodity of the three. He rushed for 1,481 yards and 21 touchdowns last season at Temple and has a slashing running style that seems to fit well with the Ravens stretch zone rushing scheme.

The rookie is still learning the offense and is looking to grab the attention of the coaches during camp.

"I'm definitely looking to turn heads every day on the practice field," Pierce said. "The other two – 'Ant' and D.B.– they are really good guys. We already have a friendship, so right now it's just competition.

"At the end of the day, everybody is trying to get a job, and I just need to beat whoever is in front of me out to get that job."

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