Buck Allen: From bubble player to key running back this season

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 17: Running back Javorius Allen
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 17: Running back Javorius Allen /

Baltimore Ravens running back Buck Allen has gone from a bubble player this offseason to a key component of the team’s offense.

After Week 2 of the NFL regular season, the Baltimore Ravens are tied for the third with 146.5 rushing yards per game. This a huge turn around from last season, when the offense averaged just over 90 yards per game.The production has been large in part to Terrance West and Buck Allen in the backfield.

Allen, a third-year running back, wasn’t expected to be a contributor to the run game heading into this season. Many speculated that he wouldn’t even make the Ravens 53-man roster. But as things have gone, it’s been just the opposite. Through two games, Allen has been the leader of the Ravens run game. He’s gone from a potential roster cut this offseason to a player that the Ravens cannot afford to lose this season.

The cost of fumbles

If there’s anything that can get a player into John Harbaugh’s doghouse, it’s problems holding on to the football. Allen had problems dating back to his time at USC, where he fumbled six times in two seasons.

As a rookie, Allen became the starting back late in the injury-riddled season when Justin Forsett broke his arm. He impressed in the following two games, but fumbles came back to haunt him. In back-to-back games against the Seahawks and Chiefs, Allen fumbled and was benched by Harbaugh. It wasn’t the end all be all, but room for concern.

In 2016, Allen was virtually a non-factor. Appearing in eight games, he finished with just 34 total rushing yards. Allen was even a healthy scratch in some games. The Ravens run game, with what little we saw of it in 2016, was led by Terrance West and eventually Kenneth Dixon. After an 8-8 disappointment, the Ravens went into the offseason with a goal to commit to the run game in 2017, but whether Allen was included in that equation or not was up in the air.

Through most of the offseason, Allen was considered a bubble player. But with a combination of intriguing preseason play and injuries to other backs, Allen found himself on the Ravens 53-man roster. Since then, he’s been one of the most important weapons on the offense.

Filling Woodhead’s role

One of the Ravens biggest losses came in Week 1 against the Bengals. Veteran running back Danny Woodhead went down with a hamstring injury and will miss at least seven more weeks of the season. Instead of looking for a replacement in free agency or a trade, Allen has taken over Woodhead’s role.

There’s no way to completely replace Woodhead’s production, but Allen is doing his best impression. He finished Sunday’s game with 101 total yards including a receiving touchdown. Allen led all backs with 42 snaps, with West being the second closest with 15.

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With the combination zone and pull schemes in Greg Roman’s offense, Allen is able to play to his strengths. He’s a hard runner, but is also an elusive threat in the passing game. This production is exactly why the Ravens drafted Allen in the first place. With West day-to-day this week, the Ravens will need Allen more than ever against the Jaguars. If he can continue to hold on to the football, he’ll continue to be a feature back the rest of the season.