Welcome to the offseason film review. In this series, I’ll be evaluating players the Ravens already have on the roster, how they performed in 2017, what their strengths and weaknesses were, and their outlook.
If you missed the last evaluation and projection of Jeremy Maclin, you can find it below.
This week I’ll be talking about one of the Ravens’ surprise contributors, runningback Alex Collins.
Collins was a late addition to the team, as he was signed to the practice squad in early September before being promoted to the active roster in Week 2. From that point, Collins ascended the depth chart, leading the Ravens in rushing, piling up nearly 400 more yards than the second leading rusher in only 12 starts.
15 games | 212 rushes | 973 yards rushing | 4.6 YPA | 6 touchdowns
After the season, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh made it known he was happy with the stable of running backs the Ravens have. The top horse in the stable was Collins by a mile. Despite arriving at the conclusion of training camp, Collins made his presence known, rushing for 206 yards on only 25 carries in his first three games with the Ravens.
Collins’ strengths are his abilities to get the edge on the defense and accelerate for big gains as well as his willingness to get where he wants to go without dancing.
In the play above the Ravens run a split zone and Collins outruns the linebacker who comes up to fill the gap. I thought this was Collins’ best trait. He wasn’t particularly fast, but he was quick enough to get the edge and find the open field.
This was probably one of my favorite traits Collins displayed, just because many running backs try to get too cute. He displays good vision and gets up the field in hurry, wasting little time behind the line of scrimmage. Once again, when Collins gets into the open field he knows how to pick up yards and elude tacklers.
Again, this is another example of Collins’ ability to get up the field and get to the edge on the defense. A knock on him that I have noticed, he doesn’t produce a lot of yards after initial contact. That’s fine, because more often than not he’s able to elude defenders, but I do think it limits his ability to be what most deem a bell-cow back. It’s something I noticed when going through his tape, but I don't think it is a major factor for who he is as a player. He relies on his quickness to evade contact until it’s absolutely necessary.
Once more, above is another example of Collins going down fairly easy after first contact instead of fighting through. The running lane did get clogged, but there was still a sliver to at least push through for an extra yard or two. The positive of this is Collins doesn’t waste time behind the line of scrimmage. Every run I watched, if he lost yards it was usually a result of the offensive linemen losing ground or giving up penetration before Collins ever had a chance to make something of the play.
For a running back that doesn't exhibit much in the power category, you anticipate they’re capable of adding a dimension in the receiving game. Everything I watched suggests Collins struggles to catch the ball. This is, fortunately, something that can be improved. Even on easy check downs there were times where the ball just went through his hands, and with Joe Flacco at the helm it’s obvious the check downs are coming, and Collins must become reliable. With Danny Woodhead now gone, I’d love to see Collins step into the role of a legitimate threat in the pass catching game.
For what the Ravens paid for Collins, they hit a home run. From the practice squad to nearly turning in a 1,000 yard rushing season in a running back by committee situation, Collins overachieved based on his expectations. My concerns with Collins’ game still stand, specifically the lack of power and contact. While Collins possesses quickness to the edge, he’s not particularly elusive in regards to shedding tackles like LeSean McCoy is, which limits him.
To take full reigns of the lead back job, Collins must effectively survive first contact on a consistent basis. I know PFF has him ranked 7th in yards after contact, but stats like those can be inflated with one run of 70 yards where 67 come after breaking a tackle or stiff-arming a defender. As a whole, I didn’t notice Collins pushing the pile much at all and I didn’t notice him breaking tackles. I didn’t chart these going through his season but I don’t recall watching and thinking he excelled at that part of the game.
With the way the league is transitioning, Collins will flourish in a committee role that absorbs majority of the snaps, just as I believe we’ll see receivers become more specialized. Collins will secure most of the carries next year, provided he stays healthy, but I also expect the Ravens will take a running back with a little more power in the draft to help supplement what Collins appears to lack. The Ravens unearthed a key cog on offense, one capable of hitting 1,000 scrimmage yards in 2018 with ease.