The Baltimore Ravens, of all teams, don't have a running game. Whether it's because of the running backs, the offensive line, the quarterback, the coaching or anything else, the team has simply lacked a rushing attack over the last two weeks, and the last two years.
Baltimore got off to a good start running the football the first two games against Cincinnati and Cleveland with the duo of Terrance West and Buck Allen. Alex Collins, however, would emerge a bit against the Browns after he was promoted from the practice squad for the injured Danny Woodhead. It was in that game, where Collins started to get more snaps away from West due to him suffering a soft tissue injury during that game.
Collins has continued to take snaps away from West, while Allen is still the go to running back for the passing game, the problem for Collins is one big thing: fumbles.
That has been the one issue for Collins in year two of his career, and it dates back to his days in college at Arkansas. While Collins is second on the all-time rushing yards list in Razorback history behind Darren McFadden, he fumbled 17 times during his days in college. The fumbles carried over to his one season in Seattle, and here in Baltimore as he has turned the ball over twice in the last three weeks. The latest turnover by Collins last week resulted in a Pittsburgh Steeler touchdown the following drive.
It really has been a 'taking the good with the bad" argument when it comes to Alex Collins. His fumbling is a massive problem, especially with a struggling offense, but he has shown explosiveness and power the team has been lacking at the position. It is something they were going to rely on with Kenneth Dixon until he got suspended, then tore his meniscus while training. The question the Ravens have to ask, is Collins worth the risk?
With a limited offense that can't afford to make mistakes, is it too much of a risk to rely heavily on Collins? A guy who is going to, and will, fumble the football unless something changes. Team head coach John Harbaugh obviously has a lot of faith in the young running back because after Collins fumbled against Pittsburgh, his second in three games, Harbaugh trotted him back out on the field. Collins avoided the proverbial Harbaugh doghouse.
Collins has shown what he can do over these last three games, and he could potentially be the main feature running back for this team if West continues to struggle or is still being affected by the soft tissue injury he sustained against the Browns. Fumbling, however, is a giant problem, and while players like Tiki Barber, Adrian Peterson, and even Ray Rice in the postseason had those issues, Alex Collins isn't at the level they were at.
It's a major gamble the Ravens are taking, but it's a gamble that has to pay off to try and get a win in Oakland. Baltimore has to get one this week, and they are putting a lot of faith in the former fifth-round pick out of Arkansas. If he continues to fumble, and the Ravens still don't have much faith in West, maybe it's time to give Buck Allen an opportunity to do more than to just catch passes.