Ravens running back Alex Collins was placed on injured reserve Saturday, ending a disappointing season for one of the NFL’s breakout stars of 2017.
Bothered by an ailing knee earlier this season, Collins was inactive for the Ravens’ win last Sunday against the Oakland Raiders with a foot injury. He did not practice Wednesday, was limited Thursday and was a full participant Friday, seemingly progressing toward a return to action.
“Eventually, those things heal,” coach John Harbaugh said of Collins’ foot injury Monday. “It’s not like a bone break or anything like that.”
His IR designation comes almost three weeks after the emergence of undrafted rookie Gus Edwards, who has paired with rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson to form one of the NFL’s top rushing attacks.
Collins started every game this season until last Sunday’s, but he was never as effective as during a 2017 season when his Irish dancing and downhill running style propelled him out of anonymity. A year after finishing with 973 rushing yards, six touchdowns, 4.6 yards per carry and the distinction of being Pro Football Focus' top-rated running back, Collins will enter restricted free agency this offseason on a downturn.
Behind an offensive line that struggled over the season's first half, he averaged 3.6 yards per carry and didn't have a run of longer than 19 yards. Collins’ season high for rushing yards in a game this season (68) was twice nearly doubled by Edwards, the team’s new starter. He also fumbled three times, losing each.
“I think what’s most important is that we just stay consistent with what we’ve been doing and sticking to the game plan,” Collins said in October. “We watched the film, and it just shows that we’re right there at times, and it’s one player away, or one little mistake away from big yards or a big gain or possibly a touchdown. That’s the most important thing.”
In a corresponding move Saturday, the Ravens activated running back Kenneth Dixon. Harbaugh said Friday that Dixon was an "option" to play Sunday against the Falcons, and with Collins out, the Ravens could have Dixon join Edwards, Buck Allen and Ty Montgomery on the field in Atlanta.
The often-sidelined Dixon suffered a knee injury in the season opener. After being designated to return from IR on Nov. 16, he had to be added to the 53-man roster by Friday or else revert to IR for the remainder of the season.
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The chance to return "means a lot,” Dixon told The Baltimore Sun last week. “It shows that they believe in me, and it shows that they know that I’ve been working hard to get back. So I really appreciate it. Coach Harbaugh is a really good guy. He told me to stay ready because he wanted to see me back. I just wanted to come back and play.”