Perhaps the Raiders’ Marcel Reece finally has found his home.
In high school and college (at Washington), Reece was a standout wide receiver. But NFL scouts looked at his size and speed and didn’t project him as a wideout in the league.
So Reece went undrafted, was signed by the Dolphins and later picked up by the Raiders, who eventually made him a fullback.
As a 6-foot-1, 255-pound fullback, he’s shown terrific skills as a blocker, receiver and runner.
Now, however, he’s opened eyes with his play at tailback.
With running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson both out with ankle injuries the past two games, Reece has gotten playing time as the featured running back and proved not only effective but durable.
He’s been one of the few bright spots on the 3-7 team the past two weeks.
Against the Saints on Sunday, Reece carried the ball 19 times for 103 yards and had four catches for 90 yards, including one that went for 56 yards. With 10 more receiving yards he would have become the first Oakland running back with 100 yards rushing and receiving in the same game since Marcus Allen in 1986.
In a loss to Baltimore the week before, Reece had 48 yards on 13 carries and 56 yards on seven catches.
“He’s a football player and he just makes football plays over and over again, every week,” quarterback Carson Palmer told Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group after Sunday’s loss to the Saints. “You feel like you can’t get the guy the ball enough. … Marcel’s special.”
Added offensive tackle Khalif Barnes: “Reece was a solider, man. He went out there and did exactly what he’s been doing, basically, all season long. He’s picking up a lot of slack and he’s been doing a hell of a job.”
Until McFadden and Goodson return, Reece will likely continue to get the bulk of the work in the ground game.
Head coach Dennis Allen says he expects McFadden and Goodson will return to practice this week in preparation for the game against the 5-5 Bengals in Cincinnati Sunday, but that isn’t certain.
Reece has shrugged off any praise that’s come his way the past couple of weeks, because the Raiders have lost.
But his teammates haven’t been shy about talking about the good work he’s done.
“He has come in and not missed a beat, filled the shoes and done everything we’ve asked him to do, at a very high level,” fullback Owen Schmitt told Corkran.
With McFadden always battling injuries and coaches reluctant to give second-year back Taiwan Jones much of an opportunity to play in games, it’s possible that Reece could be not only a short-term solution to the team’s running game woes, but also part of the long-term solution.
For now, at least, Reece doesn’t really care to talk about that. He’s just tired of losing this season and wants to start winning again.
“Stats are really irrelevant when you don’t get the ‘W,’ ” Reece told Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle when he was asked about his performance against the Saints. “I don’t care what they were.”