Finding bright spots on offense for the Baltimore Ravens these days is not easy. When it comes to offensive weapons, to say the pickings are slim would be an understatement.
Perhaps this player may not be having a good enough year to be called an offensive “weapon” per se, but third-year running back Buck Allen is having himself one heck of a bounce back year after a dismal 2016 season.
As a rookie in 2015, Allen posted 514 rushing yards and 45 receptions, looking every bit the part of a fourth-round draft pick. But then things went south in 2016, whether it was a Sophomore Slump or just overall bad year for Allen as he only managed nine rush attempts, hardly ever touching the field.
Heading into 2017, it would have been a surprise to nobody if Allen did not even make the team after the addition of free agent Danny Woodhead. But after a strong preseason, Allen had a rebirth of sorts and was able to latch on to the final roster. Fast forward to now, and Allen leads the team in catches (39) and has amassed 377 rushing yards in a crowded backfield.
Granted, it should be noted that Allen has only 189 yards on those 39 catches, which quite frankly is not too impressive, but he has been a reliable safety net out of the backfield for quarterback Joe Flacco, check-down extraordinaire.
As the Ravens make a Wild Card push over the final two months of the season, having Allen in the backfield to complement Alex Collins and a soon-to-be fully healthy Terrance West will be key. Let’s take a look at how he has contributed to the offense so far this season.
Running between the tackles, Allen has been decisive with good vision and burst. Here, he has two run lanes to work with after the handoff.
He notices the safety to his right and cuts back toward the left, properly opting for the open field.
Allen effortlessly sifts through the crowded line and bounces out and into the second level, ultimately picking up double-digit yards on the play.
As a ball carrier, Allen is at his best when he can be patient between the tackles and wiggle his way through the defense. He is not the power or one-cut runner that Collins and West are, but more of a shifty, agile running back who can weave his way through running lanes.
But as noted earlier, where Allen stood out in Year One and so far this season is in the passing game. On pace for about 70 receptions this season, Allen is an effortless pass catcher out of the backfield and is one of Flacco’s most dependable targets.
In the last game against the Tennessee Titans, Allen hauled in a key touchdown late in the game.
He matches up one-on-one with the safety out of the backfield and engages with contact as he works his way out into the flat.
Allen displays enough physicality to power through the defender and create enough space to work outside and toward the pylon.
He is far from the fastest of running backs, but Allen displays enough quickness to gain separation in the flat and allow Flacco an easy pitch-and-catch for a touchdown.
Earlier in the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the in-the-flat catching ability of Allen was also on display. Here, he works his way off the edge and into the flat.
Allen pulls in the reception and then puts his shiftiness in the open field on display.
In terms of lower-body bend, Allen is the best asset on the Ravens offense. His balance and bend ability in the open field allows him to sneak past the defender and pick up extra yardage, turning a would-be four-yard gain into a pickup of seven yards on the play.
Baltimore’s offense can be frustratingly prone to check downs, but at least having a reliable pass catcher such as Allen out of the backfield makes the throws high-percentage. Heading down the stretch in 2017 and into 2018, Allen has more than proved his worth as an integral part of Baltimore’s offense.
With the return of Woodhead, Allen may not quite reach his projected pace of 70 receptions, but if he finishes the year with 55+ catches and over 500 rushing yards, there is no doubt that he will head into next season as an expected key member of the offense.