OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Alex Collins enters this season looking to gain 1,000 yards, enhance his stature among NFL running backs and help the Ravens reach the postseason for the first time since 2014.
These goals are far more ambitious than his singular objective of a year ago, which was simply to earn a place on Baltimore’s 53-man roster.
After being waived by Seattle early last September, Collins was signed to the Ravens practice squad. He was activated in Week 2 and thrust into the starting lineup on Oct. 1.
Collins finished with 973 yards rushing — ranking ninth in the NFL with a 4.6-yard average — and caught 23 passes for 187 yards.
If he can come up with a sufficient encore in 2018, then perhaps Collins will no longer feel underappreciated.
“I feel like I’ve been overlooked my entire career, throughout college and at this level,” Collins said. “But I’d rather show them on the field why I’m overlooked than run my mouth talking about it.”
At Arkansas, Collins became only the third player in the history of the Southeastern Conference to open his career with three successive 1,000-yard seasons. Yet, he wasn’t selected until the fifth round of the 2016 NFL draft.
Collins rushed for 125 yards in his rookie season, not enough to convince Seattle to keep him for another season.
He finally made some noise with Baltimore last year, though not quite enough to get him the acclaim many believe he deserves.
“I definitely think he’s underrated, but it’s probably due to the fact that he’s only played one real year,” Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said. “After this year, I’m not sure he’ll still be underrated.”
Collins certainly isn’t underappreciated by the Ravens.
“In my mind, he’s a veteran back. He’s been there before and has a lot to prove,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He still has a little bit of a chip on his shoulder; I’m looking forward to seeing how he plays.”
Collins does not like talking about himself. He was scheduled to meet with the local media on Wednesday to preview Baltimore’s opener against Buffalo, but was nowhere to be found when it was his turn to step up to the podium.
Long after most of the cameramen and reporters departed, Collins finally spoke in the hallway outside the locker room.
It’s been a quiet summer for the 5-foot-10, 208-pound Collins, who carried only three times during the preseason in the only game he played.
“There’s an expectation at the end of that,” he said. “They took care of me in the preseason, so I feel like it’s my responsibility to take care of them in the regular season. I’m going to show them that I can carry that load. I’m ready to take on that pounding.”
It sure beats being a member of the practice squad.
“I’m thankful for the position I’m in, from last year to this year,” Collins said. “But at the same time, I’m trying to go above and beyond what I did last year. I have the motivation.”
Collins twice ran for 100 yards last season and probably would have topped 1,000 yards if he played in all 16 games instead of 15. He expects to reach four digits in yards this time around.
“That’s something I’m trying hard to achieve. At the same time, I still have other goals that trump that,” he said. “I’m going to help the team first. I’ll worry about my personal goals after that.”