Alex Collins? A guy who was cut Sept. 1? That’s who we’re talking about this week? Yep, I am digging deep for this week’s edition.
First, this is not just about opportunity; this is about talent too. Let’s start with how he is going to be successful if he gets sufficient touches. Key word, if – there’s little to indicate it will happen at this point, but when playing waivers if possible, it’s best to be a week early rather than hoping your priority is high enough to win a player.
How does Alex Collins win? He runs smart. There are reasons he fell to the fifth round of the 2016 draft and none of them are related to his tape; he just didn’t test well. Thing is, no one expected him to. Those types, especially at running back, just don’t get prioritized in front office conversations each spring. He has great feet, balance, patience and body control. He does an excellent job setting up his blockers as he waits for the hole to open then maximizes his power and agility as he explodes through it once it opens. He’s just not going to run away from defenders; he’s going to grind out his yards but those types are a dime-a-dozen in this league. It didn’t help that his transition as a rookie was not a smooth one. However, all reports out of Seattle’s camp this summer (where he was before being cut) indicated he took a big step entering his second year. This is not unusual, as it’s the first time through a full off-season program and players now have the experience of enduring a full NFL season.
The problem is the team, for all intents and purposes, had already moved on with the off-season signing of Eddie Lacy. Collins was just around as insurance in case Lacy didn’t pan out, something happened to C.J. Prosise, or Thomas Rawls had issues returning from injury. Collins also ended up with unforeseen competition in the form of Chris Carson, who has done fairly well for himself to open this season. There just wasn’t room for Collins on the final 53-man roster and the trade market for running backs was not there at the cut deadline. Enter, Baltimore.
Collins was unsuccessful finding a job on an active roster, so he signed with Baltimore’s practice squad. Only he can definitively answer, but the lack of competition had to have been appealing for the hungry second-year player. The only established option (Danny Woodhead) was a 32-year-old receiving specialist and the lead back (Terrance West) had already been given up on by two teams (Cleveland and Tennessee) prior to arriving in Baltimore. An opportunity on the active roster presented itself with Woodhead’s Week 1 injury and he took advantage of his limited role Week 2 to show he was ready to contribute. He showed a burst that West never had and while stats can lie, these ones did not – Terrance West had eight carries for 22 yards, Alex Collins seven carries, 42 yards.
In the days that followed we learned that West came down with a soft tissue injury during the game and arguably the two most important people (quarterback Joe Flacco and head coach John Harbaugh) made noteworthy comments. Flacco said on Sept. 20 that “you could tell during the week in practice that when he got the ball, he had a little bit something to him.”
Earlier in the week Harbaugh said, “guys who play well are going to earn more playing time.”
As we all know, the trip to London was not a good one for Baltimore, but Collins did more with touches in Week 3 than he did Week 2 – nine carries for 82 yards. The rest of the offense was stuck in neutral, but Collins was still maximizing what he could get with his opportunities. Another stiff test awaits this week in the form of AFC North rival Pittsburgh, but I expect this to be the week we start to see him transition to the lead back. Javorius (“Buck”) Allen caps his weekly upside as he will maintain his role in the passing game, but as I discussed last week ultimately the best asset from this group will be the one that gets the most carries. Get to him now before the waiver wire frenzy heats up on the back end of Week 4.
This flavor of this week is: Duck Confit
On a plate, it just looks like an ordinary chicken leg. One bite though – and the flavor derived from the fat will melt your face off. So, take a bite of Alex Collins. He may not look like anything special, but you should never judge a book by its cover.