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Oakland Raiders Position Review: Running Backs

Posted Feb 10, 2017

With the offseason underway, Raiders.com takes a look at the roster, and breaks down each position.

MORE POSITION REVIEWS: Quarterbacks, Safeties

Overview: Latavius Murray needed some help; you won’t find many folks that will dispute that.

2015 was a banner year for the Oakland Raiders running back; he led the team in rushing, hit the 1,000-yard mark, and earned a Pro Bowl nod at season’s end, but outside of Murray, there really wasn’t much production to speak of from the Silver and Black’s ground game.

To put it in perspective, quarterback Derek Carr was the second-leading rusher on the team with 138 yards, and having a disparity like that on the ground isn’t necessarily a recipe for a thriving offense.

Well, Murray and the ground game got the boost they needed in 2016 in the form of a pair of rookie running backs, Jalen Richard and DeAndré Washington. The Raiders trio of running backs – combined with fullback Jamize Olawale – proved to be one of the more dynamic rushing attacks in the NFL in 2016, finishing the season ranked sixth with 120.1 yards per game on the ground.

Overall, the team’s effectiveness running the ball was better in 2016, as their 1,922 total yards was a dramatic improvement over the 1,457 yards they racked up in 2015.

By The Numbers: The secret to success for the Silver and Black offensively wasn’t much of a secret in 2016; when the run game got rolling, it typically spelled positive results for the team as a whole. The Raiders hit the century mark on the ground 10 times in 2016, and in those games, the team boasted a record of 8-2.

Going Forward: The biggest question in regards to the running backs going forward squarely surrounds Mr. Latavius Murray. After spending the first four years of his NFL career with the Silver and Black – and leading the team in rushing in back-to-back seasons – No. 28 is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this March when the new league year begins, meaning he is free to sign with whatever team he chooses.

Unlike Murray, both Richard and Washington are still under contract for 2017 and beyond, as both are set to enter just their second seasons in the NFL, and will look to individually build off strong rookie outings; combined, the two pair finished with 948 yards, and three rushing touchdowns, providing a strong complement to Murray in the backfield.

When all three backs were rocking and rolling, you’d be hard pressed to find a more dynamic trio on the ground in the NFL, so be sure to keep an eye on what happens with Murray, particularly as we inch closer to March.

I’d also be remiss to not mention fullback Jamize Olawale a little bit too, who is also under contract heading into next season.

Not only did Olawale serve as a quality lead blocker for Murray and Co., but he proved to be a valuable offensive weapon himself, finding the end zone three times, and finishing with an impressive 227 receiving yards.

Personally, I thought No. 49 put together a Pro Bowl caliber campaign in 2016, but hey, that’s just one man’s opinion.

Standout Performer: To be fair, you really can’t make a wrong selection when it comes to the Raiders running backs, but I’m going to have to go with Latavius Murray.

Not only did Murray handle the bulk of the team’s rushing duties – he carried the ball 195 times – he also turned into a regular threat in the Red Zone in 2016, finishing the year with a team-leading 12 touchdowns.

Additionally, Murray’s punishing running style allowed Richard and Washington the flexibility to do what they do best by spreading out the defense and providing a nice changeup from what No. 28 brought to the table.

The trio of Raiders running backs all put together quality seasons in their own right, but I’m going to have to give the nod on this one to Murray.