Why Splitting Carries Between Rice and Pierce Benefits the Ravens

July 07, 2013 | Ben Heck

In his five-year career in the National Football League, Ray Rice has been an integral part of the Baltimore Ravens offense.

In four of his five seasons, the 5’8″ running back has broken 1,100 yards rushing and has combined for 5,520 yards on the ground, 2,713 yards through the air and a total of 39 touchdowns over his career. The defending Super Bowl champion’s offense revolves completely around the 26-year old back and quarterback Joe Flacco likely wouldn’t have been able to be as effective this season without him.

That’s why it may come as somewhat of a surprise that Rice will likely be sharing carries this coming season for Baltimore. But it’s true.

With the emergence of rookie third-round draft pick Bernard Pierce last season, Rice fell from 307 and 291 carries in 2010 and ’11 to just 257 carries last season. Pierce, coming in on third downs quite often last season, finished the regular season with 532 yards and a touchdown on 108 carries. During the postseason Rice battled a fumbling issue and Pierce came up in a big way: 202 rushing yards on 39 carries (5.18 yards/carry), including 103 in a Wild Card victory over Indy.

The superb rookie performance from Pierce caught the attention of the Baltimore front office, and fans everywhere. With Flacco getting his big contract over the off-season, it’s important that the offense around him is in tip-top shape and keeping Rice fresh would be a huge boost for Joe’s game. Splitting the carries between Ray and Bernard, even more so then 2012, could benefit all parties involved.

A couple weeks ago it was ProFootballTalk that first came out with a report that Pierce would share touches with Rice this season, and that the distribution of carries would likely be much closer to equal in 2013.

Luckily for Baltimore, Rice is okay with that. He went on NFL Network’s NFL AM on June 25 to publicly state his opinion on the matter and simply said it isn’t something that bothers him. He praised Pierce and said that having him as the backup makes it tougher on defenses to prepare (for both of them) on game days.

Rice hit the nail on the head with his comments. If anything, this decision will just make the offense scarier if they were to split the carries 50/50. What’s more scary than Ray Rice with the football in his hands? A Ray Rice with fresh legs, of course. And that’s what this will do, keep both backs fresh and ready to go. Not to mention make the Baltimore running game a nightmare to game plan against.