Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL Nation [Print without images]

Sunday, September 15, 2013
Why Rice isn't Ravens' biggest concern

By Jamison Hensley

BALTIMORE -- In the words of Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh, the team is "optimistic" and "confident" about the status of running back Ray Rice's hip injury.

But, in terms of concerns for the offense right now, the availability of Rice shouldn't be at the top of the list. Dropped passes, the inconsistency of receivers getting open and poor run blocking are bigger worries.

Ray Rice
Ray Rice injured his hip Sunday, but the Ravens have bigger problems elsewhere on offense.
Compared with the other positions, the Ravens are better equipped to handle not having Rice for a game or two. Backup running back Bernard Pierce was the team's best runner in Sunday's 14-6 win over the Cleveland Browns, running with authority and power to amass 57 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. Not spectacular numbers by any means, but they were hard-fought yards, especially in the red zone.

Don't get me wrong: The Ravens would miss Rice's playmaking ability and his impact in the passing game. But, outside of a 14-yard run in the third quarter, Rice was ineffective in the ground game Sunday. With the way the offensive line is failing to open holes, I'm not sure if anyone could really excel on a consistent basis for the Ravens.

For the season, Rice is averaging 2.9 yards per carry. He also fumbled in Ravens territory late in the third quarter. Turnovers are becoming a problem lately for Rice. After fumbling once in the 2012 regular season, he coughed it up three times in four playoff games last season, including once in the Super Bowl.

Now, Rice is nursing an injury. Even though he's not scheduled for an MRI, Harbaugh is taking a wait-and-see approach with the three-time Pro Bowl back.

Asked if he feels the bulk of the carries are on him now, Pierce said, "As long as they keep giving me the ball, I'll keep carrying it."