PLEASE NOTE: The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on BaltimoreRavens.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Baltimore Ravens' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Ravens officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
When Anthony Allen first heard that Ricky Williams was retiring, he didn’t really believe it.
Allen flipped on the TV and texted Williams for confirmation, asking him to “still be here for me.” Williams confirmed that his playing days were over, but said he’d still be around if Allen ever needed advice.
The news was bittersweet for Allen, who looked up to Williams, but also knew that Williams’ departure meant he would have an opportunity to step into the No. 2 running back role.
“He was a great mentor, but of course I’m looking forward to the opportunity that I have now and I’m hoping to make the most of it,” Allen said.
Allen is entering his second season in the NFL and the Ravens are looking for him to take a big step forward. Rather than going after a veteran running back in free agency to replace Williams, the Ravens are hoping Allen can fill the role.
“We like Anthony Allen,” General Manager Ozzie Newsome said last week at the combine. “We’re going to give him every opportunity to be that guy.”
Allen is coming off a rookie campaign that he described as a “reality check.” The seventh-round draft pick out of Georgia Tech was active for just five games, playing special teams and getting three carries during a blowout win over St. Louis in Week 3.
He then went down with a hamstring injury in Week 6 and wasn’t active again for the rest of the season. By the time he was healthy enough to play, the Ravens were gearing up for a playoff run and weren’t going to activate a rookie that had hardly seen the field.
“That just made me hungry,” Allen said. “I’ve never had to sit out before.”
His opportunities were limited during the rookie season, but Allen still showed the coaches enough for them to believe he’s capable of complementing Ray Rice.
“I’m just thankful that the coaches are showing that they trust me and that they want to see me go out there and make some plays,” Allen said. “I just want to go out there and ball. I’m ready to go out there and make some plays and have some fun.”
Newsome compared giving Allen the opportunity to play with how the Ravens turned to second-year tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta last season to replace veteran Todd Heap. Dickson and Pitta performed well enough in practice during their rookie seasons that the Ravens believed they could part ways with Heap, and Newsome sees a similar pattern with Allen.
“It’s almost like having those two young tight ends last year and having a feeling that those guys could play for us,” Newsome said.
Outside of practice, the only place Allen really had a chance to show his potential was in the preseason, where he averaged 6.8 yards per carry and scored one touchdown.
Allen played well in the limited action, especially considering that he was essentially playing a new position. In college, Allen played wingback and fullback in Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense, and moving into a true running back role was something he hadn’t done for a few years.
“When I was at Georgia Tech I was three yards behind the quarterback with my hand in the ground and I couldn’t really make the reads and I was just running straight power,” Allen said. “Then when I got up into the second level, then I could make some reads and try to make some people miss.”
NFL running backs line up about 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage and Allen says the change has opened things up for him.
“That is just making everything slow down for me because everything is not happening as quick as it used to,” Allen said. “Now I get to actually show what I can do.”
Along with Allen, the Ravens also have second-year running back Damien Berry, who spent last year on the practice squad and will compete with Allen for the No. 2 slot. If neither works out, then Newsome said the Ravens plan to pick up a veteran sometime in August.
Allen has no intentions of letting that happen.
Coming out of college, Allen has heard all of the concerns people have about him making it in the NFL because of the position he played and the offense his school ran.
That criticism, he says, is motivation that he’s carrying into this season.
“I’ve got a chip on my shoulder,” Allen said. “I got drafted in the seventh round. I went to Georgia Tech. I played in a triple option. I can’t do this, I can’t do that. I still got to prove people wrong.”