Before last Sunday’s game at the Green Bay Packers, the Ravens’ Alex Collins ranked 14th in the NFL in rushing, but was the only running back in the top 44 without a rushing touchdown.
That changed when he scored from 3 yards out in the fourth quarter to cap the team’s 23-0 rout of the Packers, and on Wednesday, the second-year pro sounded relieved about getting his first touchdown of the season and the second of his career.
“It felt good,” he said before practice. “It felt long overdue. Just going in every game, that’s the goal, you’re looking forward to getting in that end zone. So just straining so hard, and then to finally get in there, it just felt like all the strain was worth it.”
Although Collins amassed only 49 yards, his 20 carries marked a season and career high, and would seem to signal a growing trust from the coaching staff in handing off the ball to the 23-year-old.
“Just to get those more carries, it’s always a good thing for me, and it gives me encouragement working hard down there in the red zone to get in the end zone,” he said. “But it’s always wherever I can help, and if it’s another running back getting there at that time, then that’s OK, but when my number is called, I want to get in there as well.”
After losing two fumbles in his first three games, Collins has not coughed up the ball in his last seven games – six of which have been starts. Coach John Harbaugh praised Collins’ renewed ball security and said the team kept tabs on Collins, who became available after the Seattle Seahawks cut him just before the start of the regular season.
“I remember him from the  draft when he was at Arkansas,” Harbaugh said. “He and [the New Orleans Saints’ Jonathan] Williams were the two backs coming out of there. You remember the report that you wrote on him, you remember what kind of player he was then. Then when he becomes available, you go back to that memory bank a little bit and compare it to what the scouts have seen since he has been in the National Football League. It was a great opportunity for us to bring him in here, and we were really just very fortunate that it worked out the way it did.”
Ranked 13th in the league in rushing with 570 yards and tied for fifth in average at 5.0 yards, Collins has an outside chance at becoming the team’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Justin Forsett gained 1,266 yards in 2014. Collins said he is happy simply to contribute.
“It’s a good feeling,” he said. “I worked hard just coming over from Seattle, and just being put in this position is something that I’ve worked hard for and I don’t take for granted. I come out here and work hard every day, and the other running backs are pushing me as well. It’s a collective thing, a group thing, and we just take pride in trying to be the best running back group in the NFL.”