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Making the Leap, No. 33: Ravens RB Bernard Pierce

Around The League will profile the top 40 players we see Making a Leap in 2013. No. 33 on the list: Baltimore Ravens running back Bernard Pierce.

Why Pierce is on the list


There's a lot to like when you watch Pierce on film. In limited work as a rookie, he showcased a nice combination of speed and power while exhibiting good field vision. All the tools are there.

Watch Pierce hit the hole without hesitation, then show his burst to the next level of the defense:

Pierce gets into the secondary again, this time finishing the run with a stiff arm before getting dragged down by two tacklers.

About that speed. The hole here is huge, but watch him blow past the New York Giants defense for the Ravens' longest play from the line of scrimmage last season:

Ray Rice will continue to be The Man in Baltimore's backfield, but Pierce's role should expand off a promising first season.

Making the Leap

Around The League will profile the top 40 players or coaches we see Making the Leap in 2013.

40. Isaiah Pead, Rams
39. Zach Brown, Titans
38. Michael Floyd, Cardinals
37. Jordan Cameron, Browns
36. Jarvis Jenkins, Redskins
35. Chase Daniel, Chiefs
34. Falcons' offensive line
33. Bernard Pierce, Ravens
32. Dennis Allen, Raiders
31. Golden Tate, Seahawks
30. Brad Jones, Packers
29. Julian Edelman, Patriots
28. Da'Quan Bowers, Buccaneers
27. Rob Ryan, Saints
26. Kendall Wright, Titans
25. Whitney Mercilus, Texans
24. Chris Givens, Rams
23. Chris Harris, Broncos
22. D.Rodgers-Cromartie, Broncos
21. Jimmy Smith, Ravens
20. Lamar Miller, Dolphins
19. Bryan Bulaga, Packers
18. Carlos Dunlap, Bengals
17. Alshon Jeffery, Bears
16. Greg Hardy, Panthers
15. Emmanuel Sanders, Steelers

Obstacles


Rice is one of the game's best all-around backs, and has proven to be durable despite his relatively small stature. Simply put, Rice is a stud, and the Ravens will continue to feed him the rock, both on the ground and through the air.

If the running game gets off to a slow start with Pierce involved, there's sure to be grumbling that more Rice is the answer. Said grumbling could come from Rice himself.

2013 expectations


It's obvious the Ravens came to trust Pierce as the season wore on. Of his 108 carries, 78 came in the final eight games. He added 100-yard performances against the Giants in Week 15 and Indianapolis Colts in the playoffs.

Rice -- wisely steering clear of controversy -- said last month that he's fine sharing the load with Pierce, whom he calls "a great runner."

The Ravens have themselves a great problem. Their backfield consists of an All-Pro starter and a fast-rising backup. It's on offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell to get the most out of two productive players.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.

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