It has been a frustrating summer and fall for Ravens running back Buck Allen, the Ravens starter over the final six games last season who saw himself tumble down the depth chart in training camp and into the season.
Allen was a gameday inactive for the first three games this season, and he said his benching this fall has left him "more hungry."
Allen was in uniform for the first time this season on Sunday after the Ravens shook up their struggling run game by benching Justin Forsett. Allen was the backup to Terrance West against the Raiders and played 24 offensive snaps.
He had three carries for 13 yards and two receptions for 15 yards.
Coming into camp, the running back picture was plenty crowded. In addition to Allen, Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro were coming back from injuries, West was returning after being signed by the Ravens midseason last year, and Kenneth Dixon was a promising rookie fourth-round draft pick. Plus, the Ravens had Trent Richardson in camp.
As the summer wore on, West and Dixon shined, and Allen found his role diminished. Even after Dixon suffered a knee injury in the third preseason game, Allen remained on the sideline, as the Ravens chose to dress just two running backs in each of the first three games.
It was a rapid fall from grace for a fourth-round draft pick out of USC who ranked second on the team in rushing last season with 137 carries for 514 yards and one touchdown. Allen also caught 45 passes -- third-most on the team -- for 353 yards and two scores.
"Being inactive the first three games really makes you think about the little things you appreciate in life," Allen said after Sunday's game. "It really made me more hungry. ... I'm here to do whatever I gotta do to make us win."
The depth chart at running back remains in flux. On Monday, coach John Harbaugh would not commit to West being the full-time starter, despite notching the team's first 100-yard rushing game of the season against the Raiders. Dixon is expected back soon from his knee injury.
With Forsett being released on Tuesday, Allen's role is likely to improve.
Even as he plunged from 2015 starter to 2016 third- or fourth-stringer, Allen said he never doubted himself.
"I knew what I could do," he said. "I just prayed up and believed in myself... I'm always believing in myself. I don't care if I'm at the bottom, I'm still gonna believe in myself."