*"The Competition" is a BaltimoreRavens.com series that will break down every position leading up to training camp. *
Ray Rice (5-foot-8, 212 pounds, fifth season): Rice hasn't been present during the team's offseason activities, as he continues to negotiate with the Ravens for a long-term deal. Despite Rice's absence, he's still the clear leader of the running backs, as he's coming off the best season of his career. Rice was selected to his second Pro Bowl in 2011 and led the NFL with 2,068 yards from scrimmage. He is arguably the most vital piece of the Ravens offense, which is why the team wants to lock him up long term. Rice is expected to have another big season, and the Ravens will likely need that from him in order to challenge for a Super Bowl.
Anthony Allen (6-3, 230, second season):Last year's seventh-round draft pick has a bruising running style that could make him a nice complement to Rice if he can win the job. Allen was on the 53-man roster for all of last season, but was used sparingly behind Rice and Ricky Williams. Allen finished the season with three carries for eight yards.
Damien Berry (5-10, 211, second season):Berry spent last season on the Ravens practice squad, and he will have to fight to earn his way onto the active roster this year. He has bulked up considerably – adding about 15 pounds – adding some power to his speed running style.
Bernard Pierce (6-0, 218, Temple University):The third-round pick had a big senior season at Temple, running for 1,481 yards and 21 touchdowns. He is a slashing runner, with a good mix of speed and power. Pierce tweaked his hamstring during minicamp, which held him out of practice for much of the week. He has to make sure that he's healthy heading into training camp.
Bobby Rainey (5-8, 205, Western Kentucky):The Ravens signed the speedy running back as an undrafted free agent, and he has an uphill battle to climb to earn his way onto the roster. A benefit for Rainey is that he can also contribute on special teams, as he has been taking reps at returner. If he proves to be a valuable return man, then he could end up on the team.
The competition here is for the No. 2 spot behind Rice, which opened up when veteran Ricky Williams surprisingly decided to retire at the start of the offseason. There does not appear to be a favorite after Organized Team Activities (OTAs) or minicamp, as the backs were limited because they weren't wearing pads and the drills were no-contact.
At the start of the offseason, Allen appeared to have the edge in the race, but with Berry bulking up and Pierce getting thrown into the mix, the competition now looks wide open. This battle will likely last throughout training camp and into the preseason.
The other consideration here is whether the Ravens would add a veteran like Cedric Benson to the mix. That doesn't appear to be the case right now, but if one of the young backs doesn't seize the job, then the Ravens could look to the market for a veteran presence.
The other aspect of this competition is that the Ravens likely won't carry four running backs on the active roster, so one of the young backs could end up getting released or placed on the team's practice squad.