OWINGS MILLS - The Ravens will likely be without Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice Sunday against the Houston Texans.
Baltimore listed Rice as doubtful on its injury report Friday. Rice missed a third consecutive day of practice Friday as he recovers from the strained hip flexor he suffered against the Cleveland Browns last week.
Without Rice, the Ravens will turn to Bernard Pierce to handle the majority of the workload against the Texans.
Many inside the organization feel that Pierce has the ability to be a productive starting running back in the NFL, and the 2012 third-round pick will have a chance to validate those beliefs against a tough Houston front seven.
"He's a skilled back with some power and speed," Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said. "He's been a guy that runs extremely hard. And when you look at our situation right now, he's going to have to carry a little bit more of a load. We fully expect him to step up and do the job."
Pierce's numbers aren't great this year. He's averaging just 2.8 yards per carry. But he's a physical 225-pound runner who shined as a rookie last season and who running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery referred to as a "Poor man's Adrian Peterson" earlier this year.
"It's not going to change for us at all [if Rice doesn't play]," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said during a conference call on Wednesday. "I think the young man playing behind him is a helluva a player. We really, really liked him coming out, and [he] has done some explosive things for them. We would not expect it to change anything that they do."
But whether it's been Rice or Pierce in the game, the Ravens have struggled to run the ball effectively this season.
Meanwhile, Houston ranks just 17th in the league in rush defense, but it's limiting opposing ball-carriers to an average of just 3.8 yards per carry.
Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson had 96 yards versus the Texans last week, but it took him 25 carries to get it.
Houston held San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews to just 33 yards on 13 carries in Week 1.
"I'm just going to try to do what I do," Pierce said. "[I'm] just going to continue to try and pound away on the defense, and hopefully I have a good game."
NOTES: Along with Rice, starting defensive end Chris Canty (groin), inside linebacker Arthur Brown (chest), defensive lineman Brandon Williams (toe) and wide receiver Deonte Thompson (foot) were also listed as doubtful for Sunday. ... Reserve cornerback Chykie Brown (knee) practiced on a limited basis for a second straight day Friday and is listed as questionable. ... Safety Ed Reed (hip), Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown (toe) and tight end Garrett Graham (hip/groin) are all questionable for Houston. Wide receiver Andre Johnson (concussion/back) was a full participant in practice Friday and is listed as probable.