When the Baltimore Ravens selected former USC running back Buck Allen in Round 4 of the 2015 NFL draft, they saw far more than just a player capable of carrying the football—they also saw a receiver.
And for good reason. In college, he totaled 63 receptions for 710 yards and two scores in two years, adding to his 417 career carries for 2,306 yards and 25 touchdowns. And, based on Ravens head coach John Harbaugh’s comments to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun following the team’s rookie minicamp, he should be even more involved in Baltimore’s passing game than he was in college.
Harbaugh said, “We’ve seen Buck catch passes, we’ve seen Buck pass protect, so we know he can do it. He has done it out here and looks very smooth doing it. He’s running the ball well. We haven’t had any surprises.” Wilson said that at minicamp, Allen was “adeptly transitioning in and out of breaks to make a series of receptions.”
A pass-catching running back is even more important to the Ravens this year than it was last year, when Gary Kubiak was the team’s offensive coordinator. In 2014, the Ravens’ leading pass-catching running back was Justin Forsett, who had 44 catches on 59 targets for 263 yards. Forsett will again see the most hand-offs in Baltimore’s offense this year, but when it comes to catching passes, he may have to cede some ground to Allen, especially with Marc Trestman now in town as coordinator.
Trestman is a big fan of throwing the football to running backs, as evidenced by his two seasons as the Chicago Bears’ head coach. Bears running back Matt Forte had just 60 passing targets in 2012. When Trestman came to town in 2013, however, that number jumped to 94 and then to 130 in 2014. Forte caught 102 of those passes for 808 yards and four scores. Though Allen may not see 130 targets this year—there is the matter of Forsett to consider—it’s obvious from Harbaugh’s comments and what the media witnessed at rookie camp that throwing the football to Allen will be part of the Ravens’ offensive repertoire in 2015.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was “fired up” according to Harbaugh after the team got him not just a big, fast receiver in Breshad Perriman but also a big-bodied, pass-catching tight end in Maxx Williams in Rounds 1 and 2 of this year’s draft. But he should also be as excited that he has another running back as an outlet for his passes. Flacco is no stranger to offenses that call for heavy passing to the running back—twice in his career he targeted former Ravens back Ray Rice over 100 times in a season, netting Rice over 700 yards each time. He should feel quite comfortable with Allen as yet another of his new, rookie targets.
Photo: USA Today Sports