OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Now that the Baltimore Ravens know they will be without Ray Rice for two games, they have to figure out who will be replacing him at running back when they face the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Rice is coming off the worst season of his career, averaging 3.1 yards per carry last season. But he clearly remains the team's best running back.
The Ravens' top choice to fill in for Rice is Bernard Pierce. A year ago, he appeared to be on the verge of a breakout season after being a key factor in the Ravens' Super Bowl run. Then, just like Rice last season, Pierce struggled mightily, averaging 2.9 yards per carry -- second worst in the NFL among qualifying running backs.
Pierce, who was limited all offseason after having shoulder surgery, looked to be in good shape as the Ravens opened training camp this week. Still, Pierce has one career start in the NFL.
“I’m very confident in Bernard. I've always liked Bernard," coach John Harbaugh said. "He's a heck of a player. He’s worked very hard, he’s 217 pounds, [and] he's in the best shape of his life. He looked good out here the last couple of days. We'll know more by Tuesday once we get the pads on and seeing him move with the pads on and how the shoulder holds up -- that'll be important."
The Ravens' biggest free-agent addition at running back was Justin Forsett. He's been impressive in offseason practices with his elusiveness and burst. The Ravens consider him underrated, and he's the only back who has a familiarity with Gary Kubiak's offense. But there are concerns about the durability of Forsett, a smallish back who had a grand total of six carries last season for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The other options for Baltimore is rookie fourth-round pick Lorenzo Taliaferro. Unlike Forsett, Taliaferro is a big, power back. The challenge for Taliaferro is adjusting to the NFL after playing for Coastal Carolina.
"I have a lot of confidence in all of our guys," Harbaugh said.