With or without Joe Flacco, Ravens should put offense on Alex Collins' back

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- If quarterback Joe Flacco is sidelined Sunday with a concussion, the Baltimore Ravens need to rely on running back Alex Collins.

Actually, with or without Flacco, the Ravens should put the offense squarely on the back of Collins.

That became apparent after Collins accounted for 47 percent of Baltimore's offense in Thursday's 40-0 rout of the Miami Dolphins. He ran for 113 yards and added 30 yards on two catches, underscoring yet again how he is a big play waiting to happen every time he touches the ball.

There were two questions that came to mind as Collins ran around and through a Dolphins defense that entered the week as the No. 5 run defense in the NFL:

Why did the Seattle Seahawks cut him at the end of the preseason?

Why aren't the Ravens giving him more touches?

Collins is the NFL's ninth-leading rusher with 478 yards, which are more than three Pro Bowl running backs from last season (Devonta Freeman, Jay Ajayi and DeMarco Murray). What makes his production more impressive is Collins has at least 17 fewer carries than any other back in the top 15 in rushing.

"He ran well," coach John Harbaugh said. "That run up the left sideline at the end of the game. … I thought he was down, but then he was still running for 10 more yards up the sideline. [It was] a pretty athletic run. He made some really good runs."

Collins received one of the game balls for being the first Ravens' 100-yard rusher in 20 games. He also needs more touches.

With the NFL regular season nearly at the halfway point, Collins leads the league with a 5.98 yards per carry average. Buck Allen, who has been splitting carries with Collins, is gaining 3.6 yards per attempt.

Collins is the most consistent playmaker on the team, and it's not even close right now. He has produced five plays of 20 or more yards -- which are two more than anyone else on the Ravens -- and Collins wasn't on the 53-man roster to start the season.

"He’s a vicious runner," center Ryan Jensen said. "That’s how I describe him. He’s elusive, but he’ll hit it downhill and run some guys over and break tackles."

The biggest risk with Collins is his ball security after he fumbled twice in his first three games. By giving him more carries, Baltimore would increase the chances of him coughing up the ball.

But it would be worth the gamble given that the Ravens are at a crossroads with a 4-4 record and might have to go with Ryan Mallett at starting quarterback if Flacco isn't cleared for Sunday's game at Tennessee.

"He’s about as good as he can be at it right now, and he needs to keep doing that," Harbaugh said of Collins' improvement in holding onto the ball. "He’s very secure and technique-sound with what he’s doing with the football."

How vital is the running game to the Ravens' success? Under Harbaugh, Baltimore is 53-13 (.803) when totaling 120 or more yards rushing, which is the the sixth-best record since 2008.

"I feel like [the confidence is] definitely growing," Collins said. "It’s just getting the feel for the team and getting the playbook and working with the quarterbacks and other running backs. They do a great job of just bringing me along and helping me learn a new scheme. I feel like when you know what you’re doing out there, you can play fast and confident."