It wasn’t that long ago when Bernard Pierce was the next big thing, a mere Ray Rice injury away from stardom. In his rookie season of 2012, Pierce was an effective change-of-pace complement to Rice, racking up 4.9 yards per carry after being selected in the 3rd round of the draft.
For various reasons, reality came crashing down in 2013. Pierce finally got his opportunity to start, but could only muster a putrid 2.9 yards per carry while nursing injuries of his own and playing behind a woeful offensive line. It just seemed like no one could do better than gain three yards and a cloud of dust for the Ravens last season.
Big changes came this offseason, as the offensive line saw major movement and the addition of three new starters. and the return of Marshal Yanda. Gary Kubiak is installing his famous zone read offense, which has made super stars out of one cut runners like Pierce.
Pierce is 100% healthy and participating fully in training camp six months after undergoing rotator cuff surgery. He has dropped several pounds and is down to 223, which is closer to his rookie weight. And Pierce has a golden opportunity in front of him with Ray Rice all but certain to serve at least a two game suspension to start the season.
Pierce is understandably excited at the opportunity in front of him, especially in regards to the new scheme. “The running game is definitely a lot simpler than what we had the year before,” Pierce said. “We actually did this in college. I definitely like the zone scheme. I’m used to it. I got a knack for this kind of offense.”
Pierce was upbeat after his first practice and feeling confident about his health. “My shoulder definitely got a lot better,” Pierce said. “I know that this is when the real grind starts. It was strenuous today, but overall it was definitely helpful.” The true test comes Saturday, when contact drills start. When asked if he was ready for contact, Pierce answered with a definitive “Yeah, I’m good.”
So it would seem all the stars are aligning for a breakout season for Pierce. If he can sustain health throughout the year, he should maintain a big role even when Rice returns. The zone scheme is tailor made for his running style, meaning Pierce should be a major part of the ground game renaissance in Baltimore this season no matter what happens with Ray Rice.