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Ravens second running back could emerge through short-yardage running

Ravens second running back could emerge through short-yardage running
The Ravens have used both Lorenzo Taliaferro, pictured, and Bernard Pierce as Justin Forsett's backup at running back this season. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun)

As the Ravens returned to practice Wednesday in full pads for the first time since their win over the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 9, the jostling on the running back depth chart started up yet again.

Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said entering the bye week that Justin Forsett has established himself as the No. 1 running back with his performances, but hasn't really committed to either Bernard Pierce or rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro as the first back off the bench.

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"We've been bouncing back and forth between Lorenzo and Bernard," Kubiak said during the bye week. "Sometimes, it has something to do with special teams, sometimes it has something to do with just feel -- like what type of game we're going to play, who we're going to play.

"We're continuing to look at that. I'm trying to see what Bernard does best [and] what Lorenzo does best. Lorenzo has had flashes as a young player. Bernard has had some flashes, too, [but] missed some time with health. We're going to need them all."

Pierce said the erratic playing time doesn't change his preparation each week.

"Whatever the coaches see throughout the practice week and whoever goes out first, that is what it is," Pierce said. "I don't complain about it because some way or another, we can all be productive."

One area where both of the running backs, each larger in stature than the smaller Forsett, can distinguish himself is in short-yardage situations. Kubiak said the team's performance on the ground in those scenarios has been a disappointment.

"We've really struggled in some short-yardage situations," Kubiak said. "But for us up front with some of the guys we have a chance to run behind, we should be better in that phase."

Through 10 games, the Ravens have 17 rushing first downs on third- and fourth-down with 3 or fewer yards to go. However, seven of those were sneaks by quarterback Joe Flacco, who has only failed once on quarterback dives and rollouts in such situations. The team's trio of running backs -- Forsett, Taliaferro, and Pierce -- is 10 of 17 on third- and fourth-and-short.

Including passes, on which Flacco is 11 of 24 in short-yardage situations, the team has converted 57.1 percent of the time when just a handful of yards is required.

Pierce, who received some of those looks after returning from his thigh injury, said the key to success in those short-yardage situations is pushing forward.

"Just find the crease and drive your feet," Pierce said. "If there's nothing there, just put your head down and just try to find productive yards."

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