Alex Collins was the feel-good story of the Ravens’ 2017 season, emerging from the Seattle Seahawks’ scrap heap to rush for nearly 1,000 yards in Baltimore.
Now, as he prepares for his first full season with the Ravens, Collins is looking to prove even more. He wants to be Baltimore’s franchise back.
“That’s my main focus,” Collins said as the Ravens’ strength and conditioning program kicked off. “I know I’m capable of it. It’s more so just me trying to show everyone else that capability as well.”
Collins certainly performed like a true No. 1 running back last season.
Despite making just 12 starts, he finished No. 11 in the league in rushing yards (973). His 4.6 yards per carry was the league’s eighth-highest mark, just behind Los Angeles Rams NFL Offensive Player of the Year Todd Gurley (4.7).
The question is whether Collins can do it over a full season, and whether he can become a more dangerous receiver and all-around offensive force.
“I know I’m durable, I can handle the load, and I can do whatever it takes,” Collins said.
“Throw me out into the fire and I’ll show you guys my capabilities. That’s my main focus when I’m out there. Let them know in here now that I can do it, I want to do it, and I can take the load. It’s just as far as if they’re ready for me to do that or not.”
One way for Collins to get more opportunities is to become a more dangerous receiver. Collins got the highest grade of any NFL running back in terms of pure running last year from Pro Football Focus. But he did not get good marks as a receiver.
Collins caught 23 passes for 187 yards last year. Gurley posted 788 receiving yards. The New Orleans Saints’ Alvin Kamara led all NFL running backs with 826. Collins isn’t going to reach those heights, but he could improve. And with Danny Woodhead now retired, there’s more opportunity.
“I can catch, I can protect, and I would love that role as well,” Collins said. “I just want to be groomed into it.”
Collins showed at the college level that he’s capable of being a lead back. He topped 1,000 rushing yards in each of his three seasons at Arkansas. He had an especially large workload as a junior and delivered with 271 carries for 1,577 yards and 20 touchdowns.
At every level of his football career, he’s taken over and carried the No. 1 spot on his team.
“I always set that goal – ever since high school,” he said. “Being able to get that at this level is something that I’m working hard for.”
Collins had to go the long way to get his first true shot. A fifth-round pick of the Seahawks two years ago, he got just 31 carries as a rookie. A crowded running backs room left Collins waived at the end of training camp the following summer.
The Ravens picked up Collins on their practice squad three days later. Just 11 days after that, he was promoted to the 53-man roster just in time for the Ravens’ Week 2 game against the Cleveland Browns. He became the team’s full-time starter in Week 6 and never looked back.
This offseason has quite a different feeling. Collins is not only a virtual lock for a spot on the team, but he’s the clear favorite to be the starter out of the gate. He said it’s “definitely” easier to prepare having a clearer picture of what’s ahead.
“But at the same time, I always want to try to compete with myself and focus on what I can do better as a player and let everything else fall in its place,” Collins said. “You never know what can happen in this profession.”