Entering this year’s training camp, Ravens running back Javorius “Buck” Allen was already at a crossroads in his young career.
Allen found himself firmly behind Terrance West, newly acquired Danny Woodhead, and Kenneth Dixon on the depth chart. The previous season, he had caught the ire of John Harbaugh for some costly fumbles and was inactive for the final five games.
So, Allen was faced with two choices: sulk and continue to struggle, or work harder and show the coaches he could be a playmaker. He chose the latter and the cards fell in his favor.
“I’ve been through worse,” Allen said about the struggles. “Me personally, I know what I’m capable of doing. I never got down on myself. I believed in my preparation, I believed in my work ethic, and I never got down on myself. I never questioned, ‘Why am I going through this?’”
Allen leaped up the depth chart when Dixon suffered a season-ending knee injury and was also suspended for six games. Woodhead also went to the IR with a hamstring injury in the opener against the Bengals and this created even more opportunities for Allen.
Allen has shown explosiveness over the past two games and leads the team with 137 yards on 35 carries. He also has caught five passes for 35 yards with a touchdown. He could get the majority of carries again this week against the Jaguars in London with West nursing a thigh injury.
Despite the tough love, Harbaugh never lost confidence in Allen.
“I’ll tell you, and Buck will laugh about this, but this is exactly what I expected from him when we drafted him,” Harbaugh said. “He and I have had these conversations a lot, and to see that come to fulfillment from his hard work is great. Now, he has to keep it going, but he’s making plays for us. To come up with that run at the end of the half, that’s a big-league play.”
Allen had shown the Ravens he was capable of making plays his rookie season when the team selected him in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft from USC. That year, he started six games and had 867 all-purpose yards (514 rushing, 353 receiving).
Now, he is looking to expand on that role and become an even bigger boost to the offense. He is fully ready to seize the moment.
“First and foremost, I’m just glad the man up above made this possible,” Allen said. “I just put myself mentally through the toughest offseason. I’m always going to work hard until I have nothing left in the tank. Just getting the opportunity and believing in your preparation allows you to showcase things on the field.”
The Ravens have showed a bigger commitment to run the ball this season, especially with quarterback Joe Flacco missing all of training camp with a sore back. The team hired Greg Roman as the senior offensive assistant/tight ends coach to help boost the running game, and the offense has showed much better balance over the opening two games.
Allen hopes that strategy will continue this week against Jacksonville. He will likely get that opportunity to make plays against a swarming Jaguars defense that leads the NFL with 11 sacks.
“Harbs and them do a great job of bringing different coaches in. Greg Roman came in,” Allen said. “He drew up a run scheme that I personally do great at. Our job is to execute, and I think we do a great job of that. I never question, ‘Why’d he call this run, or that run?’ I just have to go out and execute it and make it happen.”