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Once a Beastly Lacrosse Player, Alex Collins Is Emerging in Ravens Backfield


Alex Collins is running through NFL defenses the way he used to weave, juke and power his way down the lacrosse field in high school.

Honestly, watch the tape.

As the Ravens continue to look to their ground game for offensive firepower, Collins is standing out from the pack.

While the offense struggled as a whole last week in London, Collins was the bright spot with nine carries for 82 yards. He broke off an impressive 19-yard run in which he had Jacksonville defenders reaching for air as they fell to the turf.

Collins is averaging 7.8 yards per carry so far this season. By comparison, Javorius Allen, who leads the Ravens with 43 carries, is averaging 3.5 per rush. Terrance West, who began the year as the team's starter, is averaging 3.9 per carry.

Collins doesn't have enough carries yet to qualify on the NFL leaderboards, but his numbers would be right up there with the best so far this season. Kansas City Chiefs rookie running back Kareem Hunt leads the league with 8.5 yards per carry and Chicago Bears rookie Tarik Cohen is in second at 6.5 yards.

Granted, Collins has just 16 carries, but he has now flashed in back-to-back games. And, as Head Coach John Harbaugh has said previously, strong performances lead to more opportunities.

"I like the fact that he gets yards," Harbaugh said Monday. "He makes tacklers miss; he breaks tackles. I like guys that get yards on their own."

The Ravens signed Collins to their practice squad on Sept. 5, then brought him up to the 53-man roster before their Week 2 game against the Cleveland Browns. He flashed then, and built on it last week.

"He's done well since the day that he's got here," Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. "He has a little speed, has a little quickness. He's a good football player, he has instincts. He's a sharp kid, he puts the hard work in, he prepares well."

So how did Collins end up being available to the Ravens?

He was one of the top recruits in the nation coming out of South Plantation High School, then went to Arkansas, where he finished second on their career rushing yards list (3,703) behind Darren McFadden.

Collins was a fifth-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks last year and saw action in 11 games. He had 31 rushes for 125 yards (4.0 per carry) and one touchdown, and added 11 catches for 84 yards. He had two fumbles.

With the Seahawks deep in running back talent, they released Collins at the end of training camp this year, and the Ravens pounced to bring him aboard.

Now Collins is hoping to prove that he can become the Ravens' lead back.

"Every practice is like a gameday for me, the way I prepare," he said. "So if I am thrown into the fire, I know what I'm doing and capable and ready."

Heck, Maryland seems like just the right spot for a former lacrosse star. The Lacrosse All-Stars website claimed Collins is "the best college lacrosse player that will never be …" after watching his tape from South Plantation High School outside of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

"I could have went to college for it," Collins said. "I wanted to pursue it, but at Arkansas I couldn't do the dual sport. I wish I could have. I love lacrosse."

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