Who Backs Up Justin Forsett: Lorenzo Taliaferro Or Bernard Pierce?


Before Justin Forsett seized the starting running back job, Bernard Pierce was at the top of the pecking order. Rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro then had his opportunity to carry the load.

Since that backfield-by-committee approach early in the season, Forsett has gained a stronghold on the starting job and has been one of the NFL's top running backs this season.

Pierce and Taliaferro have both gone through their ups and downs during the season. So which of them will back up Forsett for the final six games of the season?

"That's a good question," Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak acknowledged. "We know who our 'one' is. Our 'one' is playing really well.* *No. 29 [Justin Forsett] has played extremely well. We've been bouncing back and forth between Lorenzo and Bernard.

"We're continuing to look at that. I'm trying to see what Bernard does best and what Lorenzo does best."

Kubiak's response indicated that the No. 2 back could vary from game-to-game, and the Ravens may ride the hot hand between the two young backs. Over the last four weeks, Pierce has 17 carries for 54 yards and a touchdown, and Taliaferro had 21 for 61 yards and two scores.

Pierce went into the bye on a high note by rushing for 31 yards on eight carries, his highest output since a Week 6 blowout over the Bucs.

"Sometimes it has something to do with just feel – like what type of game we're going to play, who we're going to play," Kubiak said.

Part of the consideration with Pierce and Taliaferro is how they get used on special teams. The rookie running back has played a variety of special-teams roles, and Kubiak keeps that in mind when determining how to distribute the carries.

Another factor is the importance for both backs to eliminate turnovers, which have been a problem at times this season. Taliaferro had a critical fumble in the Week 9 loss to the Steelers, and he has coughed up the football twice this season. Pierce also has a pair of fumbles.

Kubiak and Head Coach John Harbaugh have both stressed the importance for the Ravens to cut turnovers across the board.

"Protecting the ball has been a big issue," Kubiak said.

Pierce and Taliaferro both bring a physical running style that differs from Forsett, and the Ravens can use that in short-yardage situations. Whoever ends up as the No. 2 back, the Ravens have emphasized the need to improve in third-and-short and fourth-and-short situations when they try to pound the ball on the ground.

"That's something that we're very focused on right now," Kubiak said. "In this league, if it's third-and-1, you have to be able to say, 'We're coming right here and we're going to get a yard.' We haven't been able to do that right now, so we're trying to get that corrected and make sure we're doing the right things."

To get that kind of physical production out of the running backs, the Ravens are counting on having their full stable available down the stretch. They have already had to deal with some minor injuries at the position, and it's important to have options in Kubiak's run-oriented offense.

"I think they will all be involved," Kubiak said. "Who will be the two each week? It's probably going to continue to change."

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