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What happens to Alex Collins’ dream deferred?

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Alex Collins got popped by the law because his weed was too dank and too insecurely contained. Basically. He crashed his car, which happens, and “officers detected the odor of marijuana inside the vehicle.” Collins had a big ol’ jar of bud. Twenty years ago five ounces may have seemed like an awful lot of cannabis, but today such a quantity is available for $200 retail. If you’re not trying to pull a Hal Incandenza, it’s way too much for one person, and even then as someone who’s been there, I’d likely get through less than an ounce before panic induced me to flush the rest. But, to be perfectly honest, I’ve never flushed anything like four ounces. That’s a lot of bud.

But it’s not a salacious amount especially if shared. It’s an amount someone might have simply because they’re young and rich. Flashy, swaggering, I’ve been around friends’ and associates’ big jars of bud. People don’t drink the whole keg, either. Considering national opinion and medical fact about the matter, Collins broke a retrograde law. He could have possessed up to 10 grams legally in Maryland. What Collins did was not even as bad as distracted driving. He wore white after Labor Day + institutionalized racism, basically. It indefinitely derailed his dream.

Now that Chris Carson has entered the vicious cycle of updates tinged with optimism from Pete Carroll and DNPs at practice, Seattle is dangerously thin at running back. For Carlos Hyde to be effective he needs to be as close to 100% as possible. He’s not so he won’t be. Travis Homer does not seem to be the solution and DeeJay Dallas did not seem to be the solution. Dallas’s greenness and okay play didn’t derail the Seahawks last week. Seattle won comfortably against San Francisco. After Thursday Night Football, I can’t help but think Seattle did not win comfortably enough. The 2020 49ers are having dinner with Groucho, is what I’m saying. They’re an ex-parrot. They’re wintering in the undiscovered country, you see. One day Seattle will need a running game. Of that I have little doubt. Collins may very well save this season while saving his career.

There are two sets of facts which help us to project his potential contributions this season. The first is shall we say sobering. Collins has been out of the league for over a year. He somehow lost a camp battle to Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise. He fumbles a ton. Before he was cut for breaking the law, he was benched for ineffectiveness.

The second set of facts can’t help but set your expectations pretty high. Collins finished sixth in DYAR and third in DVOA in 2017. He accomplished that playing alongside Joe Flacco. Collins was stuck with Flacco in 2018 too, and while it may look like Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon badly outplayed him, Edwards and Dixon got most of their snaps after Lamar Jackson took over.

Percentage of rushes attempted with Joe Flacco starting (2018)

Collins: 93.9%

Edwards: 10.9%

Dixon: 21.7%

Rush yards per attempt with Flacco starting

Collins: 3.67

Edwards: 4.27

Dixon: 3.38

Rush yards per attempt with Jackson starting

Collins: 2.57 (7 attempts)

Edwards: 5.32

Dixon: 6.15

Maybe for some reason I do not know Collins wasn’t well matched for what Jackson does. I think seven attempts, especially seven attempts which include a touchdown, is seven attempts. The “adjustment” we use for stats like AY/A awards 20 yards for scoring a touchdown. Collins may have had 2.57 Y/A but he had 5.43 AY/A.

Point being, it’s not possible to compare his effectiveness with the effectiveness of his teammates because rushing with Flacco under center in 2018 was a major disadvantage. Running with Jackson under center in 2018 was one of the most advantageous positions for a back to be in ever. Collins ate shit and got benched for his breath stanking. Then: a foot injury. Finally: the law.

Collins is only 26. I know of no age-26 wall. He is in his athletic prime. Shaun Alexander had 1,730 yards from scrimmage in his age 26 season. That was 2003. It would be two more seasons before he tied the single-season record for rushing touchdowns. The guy whose record he tied, Priest Holmes, wasn’t even a regular starter until his age 28 season. KC signed him for something near the minimum after he lost his job in Baltimore to Jamal Lewis. Holmes gained 6,556 yards from scrimmage and scored 61 touchdowns over the next three seasons.

I’m not sure running backs are fungible, exactly, but there does seem to be a superabundance of talent. Running back is so important at the high school and college level. That creates a glut. There are too many able players and too few jobs for them to fill. Every year some back seems to emerge from almost nowhere. This season, coincidentally enough, another back the Seahawks cut in 2017, Mike Davis, made something of a star turn filling in for Christian McCaffrey. Davis is an okay player given a plum job.

For an able back there is great opportunity to be found in Seattle’s backfield. Russell Wilson is scrambling again. The team has forced defenses back through exceptional deep passing. I’ve not attempted any kind of detailed analysis, but I’ve seen plenty of good run blocking. Projecting Collins’ potential is a fool’s errand. It’s impossible. The tape is ancient. I remember him as a well-rounded back with decent vision, enough burst, and enough sand in his pants to not get JaMycal Hasty’d. He’s not a bruiser like Carson, and he has never shown much as a receiver, going all the way back to Arkansas. He fumbles, as I wrote above, he fumbles, and not a little like Chris Carson whose fumbles are infuriating but like Chris Carson in 2019, whose fumbles were game-breaking.

That season Carson fumbled once every 45 runs or receptions. Collins has matched that rate for his career. It’s bad, and for all the work he has put in and for all the help he’s received, his rate was no better in 2018. Carrying the rock can be a heavy load. In some hands it sags. Fear of failure is a lot like vertigo. The panic makes you want to leap. Just to end it, the nauseating possibility is somehow more terrifying than the failure itself. This is the kind of stuff one thinks when making this face.

Collins’ dream dried up. Bad habits festered. Seattle signing him is neither syrupy sweet nor rotten meat. It’s a dream, advanced. Now does it explode

or does it explode?