Alex Collins was one of the best stories in the NFL this year, emerging from the Seattle Seahawks’ scrap heap to one of the top running backs in the league.
The question going into the 2017 offseason is whether Collins is now “the guy” in Baltimore, or whether running back should be added to the list of offensive upgrades needed.
Head Coach John Harbaugh addressed that question Thursday with his typical stance that everybody is competing for a job and the organization is always looking for better, and that includes Collins.
“I’m looking to upgrade everything,” Harbaugh said. “Alex Collins has proven the fact that he can be a very good back in this league. … But we’re going to look to have the best running back group we can. If that means we add a guy, I’m all for it.”
Collins ran for the 11th-most rushing yards in the league this year (973) despite not being on a team in Week 1 and not becoming the Ravens’ starter until Week 6. Collins scored six rushing touchdowns in the Ravens’ final seven games and topped 100 yards twice (vs. Miami and at Pittsburgh).
He had the most explosiveness of any of the Ravens’ backs and showed an ability to gain yards after contact. Collins increasingly contributed as a pass catcher as the weeks went on and didn’t lose a fumble after putting two on the turf in his first three games in purple.
But Harbaugh pointed out that Collins wasn’t the only Ravens running back that emerged this season. Javorius Allen, Kenneth Dixon and Danny Woodhead are all under contract for next year as well.
Allen had a big bounce back season. After just nine carries for 34 yards in 2016, Allen had 153 carries for a career-high 591 yards and four touchdowns in his third season. He also caught 46 passes for 250 yards and two more scores.
“Buck Allen – look at the year Buck had,” Harbaugh said.
Woodhead, who will turn 33 years old later this month, didn’t make as big a difference as expected. He missed eight games with a hamstring injury. After he returned for the final seven games, he caught 30 passes for 167 yards and rushed 13 times for 52 yards.
The Ravens will also have Dixon, who was flashing as an impressive weapon this summer before tearing his meniscus. Dixon was also suspended, but will be ready to go once football begins again, Harbaugh said.
“Kenneth has to take care of his business and be ready to go,” Harbaugh said. “I see him in here doing it all the time. Heck yeah, Kenneth Dixon is a big part of that conversation.”
Terrance West is headed for free agency after a disappointing season in which he didn’t see the field after suffering a calf injury in Week 5.
Ultimately, the Ravens have a big, talented group set to return, but could always sign a running back or grab one in the draft.
“If it means it’s these guys we have, then yeah, I think they’re good enough,” Harbaugh said. “I’m all for adding a guy in that position, if we get the right kind of guy that can make us better.”