What would have happened to Alex Collins if he stayed on the Seattle practice squad? Do you think they would have called him up at some point amid their committee chaos and given him a chance? Do you think Collins cares in the least? Probably not after his breakout performance on Thursday Night Football pushed him into a starting role in Baltimore.
After weeks of watching him rattle off six yards per carry, someone on the Ravens’ coaching staff finally thought it might be a good idea to give Collins the ball more. Against Miami, he ran 18 times for 113 yards, mostly on his own quickness and strength. For good measure, he caught the only two passes thrown to him for 30 more yards.
Coach John Harbaugh finally said Collins deserves more time. Javorius Allen will still see the bulk of the third-down and passing plays, but Alex Collins is your new early downs running back in Baltimore. If Terrance West makes it back from his calf injury, he will not be the starter.
Can he keep this pace up?
There is not enough history to venture more than a guess whether Alex Collins can keep up his six yards per carry pace. Last season, he only ran the ball 31 times, averaging four yards, while catching 11 passes for 76 more. But that’s not the most important question.
The reason Baltimore has been so hesitant to give Collins more carries, and the reason he was on the practice squad in Seattle, is that he has a reputation for coughing up the ball. In Week 3, he lost his second fumble on only 25 carries. Harbaugh put him on notice that his next fumble would be his last carry of the year.
To Baltimore’s credit, they did not bench him. He has averaged 13 carries per game since then without so much as a bobble.
So what lies ahead?
Alex Collins’ running back life changes in Week 9. No longer is he the change of pace back entering a game and making the defense wonder what he will do. As the feature back, defenses will key to stop him.
His first test comes against the solid line of the Tennessee Titans. More predictable usage and run defenses will make Collins’ mission more difficult. Defenders will claw for the ball, especially knowing his reputation.
How the young runner reacts to some stuffed early down runs could affect his ball carrying later in the game or in drives. Many young runners try to make up for losses on subsequent downs and get reckless with the ball. Collins can ill afford to take chances with the rock.
With virtually no passing attack, the Ravens’ opponents can cheat toward the box. Of course, that didn’t work out too well for the Dolphins last week.
So… is he or isn’t he?
Tennessee has a stout run defense, but the lead back on a run-first team offers a solid floor. I am definitely starting him this week, but the situation needs to be watched. I do not trust John Harbaugh to not go back to West if the veteran Raven looks healthy and I am certain there will be repercussions if Collins fumbles the ball away.
For Week 9, Alex Collins is a must-start. But do not expect 143 yards and pay attention to what Harbaugh says after the game for clues to Collins’ status in the weeks after.
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