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Getting TDs, not FGs, key to Ravens' success

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Getting TDs, not FGs, key to Ravens' success

It's a pleasure to be covering the Ravens this season, and by all accounts I've gathered from respected NFL insiders and reporters in this business this is a first-class organization from the top down.

What makes this team interesting to cover is this: Will that front-office success finally translate into a Super Bowl championship on the field?

Qualifying for the playoffs is expected, and under quarterback Joe Flacco the Ravens have done so four years in a row. But there's a delicate balance between success and failure. This team could be 8-8 or 13-3, depending on how younger players such as linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Paul Kruger and running backs Bernard Pierce or Bobby Rainey perform and the older ones such as center Matt Birk and linebacker Ray Lewis hold up.

And let's not forget Ray Rice. The running back is going into his fifth season after signing a 40 million contract. He rushed for more than 1,300 yards in 2011, led the NFL in total yards from scrimmage with more than 2,000 and scored a career high 15 touchdowns.

Remember Chris Johnson of the Titans? After rushing for more than 2,000 yards in 2009, he received a 53.5 million deal before the 2011 season and then had a miserable campaign by posting career lows in carries, yards and touchdowns.

Johnson was a late addition to training camp. This is not the case with Rice, who by all indications is in a better groove and on a better team.

Flacco believes he's top five at his position and going into the final year of his contract he has to prove it with a stronger receiver corp. That means the Ravens must be a better red zone team that puts the ball in the end zone rather than settling for field goals.

Don't believe it? Take a look at the last three Super Bowl champions: Saints, Packers and Giants.

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Ravens cancel Saturday's open practice at M&T Bank Stadium

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USA Today Sports

Ravens cancel Saturday's open practice at M&T Bank Stadium

The Baltimore Ravens cancelled Saturday night's free open practice at M&T Bank Stadium due to a forecast that calls for heavy rain and inclement weather.

There is no official word from the team on whether this practice will be resheduled, but it seems like Sunday may be an option, even though there's rain in the forecast then too.

Ravens fans who were looking to see first-round draft pick and potential future starting quarterback Lamar Jackson will have to wait for another day. His presence at training camp, an inevitable competition with the incumbent, Joe Flacco, and potential two-quarterback packages involving both of them are set to be some of the biggest storylines of Ravens camp this summer.

As a Heisman Trophy winner, Jackson was one of the most dynamic players in college football during his time at Louisville. If he can replicate that kind of performance in the NFL, he will be at plenty more training camp sessions for Ravens fans to watch.

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After breakout 2017 season, Ravens running back Alex Collins isn't getting too comfortable

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After breakout 2017 season, Ravens running back Alex Collins isn't getting too comfortable

This time last year, running back Alex Collins wasn't a part of the Baltimore Ravens.

After being released by the Seattle Seahawks at the end of the 2017 preseason, the Ravens placed the 23-year-old on their practice squad, and by Week 2, Collins was already making plays.

As the season progressed, Collins found himself as the Ravens' top running back. He finished 2017 as the team's leading rusher with 973 yards while Javorius "Buck" Allen followed behind him with 591 yards.

If the 2018 NFL season began today, Collins would likely be the Ravens' starter, which is quite ironic considering the fate of his 2017 preseason.

"I always go back to where I started and where I am now, and I use that as my motivation," Collins said after Thursday's training camp practice.

"No matter the day, no matter how tired I am, I think to myself, at this time last year, I didn’t know my position, where I was, where I’d end up. So just having that security behind it is definitely my motivation to keep it this way and keep pushing forward and keep trying to get better instead of being complacent.”

Over the course of 15 games, Collins proved he had the strength and speed to make an impact on the team after Danny Woodhead suffered a hamstring injury on the first drive of the Ravens' Week 1 game and Kenneth Dixon sat out the entire season with a torn meniscus. 

While job security is something we all strive for, Collins isn't getting too comfortable with the hierarchy. 

“I don’t want to say necessarily ‘comfortable,’ because when I use that word, it makes me feel like I’m too relaxed and lackadaisical," Collins said.

"I’m more focused. I don’t want to get comfortable. I don’t want the team or our group to get comfortable, because we just want to get better every day. So, in the position I am, it’s a great feeling, but I’m always pushing myself to be better.”

While Collins has set personal goals for himself – like a 1,000-yard season – he is equally as focused on making the Ravens backfield one of the best groups in the National Football League. 

“I expect that," Collins said on being the Ravens' starter.

"I would hope that all the other running backs expect [to be the starter] as well, and that’s what kind of drives our group – when we all know that we have that capability to be the No. 1 guy, and we’re out competing and push each other and try to be the best. No matter who’s out there during the game, you’ll see a productive play out of that person. So, I have that mindset. I want to be the guy. I have that fire in me, and I hope [that is] as well as the other running backs, as I encouraged them as well.”

Collins noted that he's coming into training camp a bit heavier. He added five pounds to his 200-pound frame "just to see how that feels," but is still maintaining the stamina and strength he's always had. 

Collins – who was one of several veterans released from practice early as the team begins to adjust their way into the extended preseason – finished his media availability with a friendly warning to fantasy football owners: "Draft me now before it’s too late, guys."

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