To Raiders running back Rashad Jennings, depth charts are unimportant. Even if he finds himself listed as the No. 2 or No. 3 back on a team, that’s not how he thinks of himself.
“I go year to year with the same philosophy, same mindset since high school, college and the NFL,” he told Raiders.com after a recent practice at the team’s Napa training camp site. “You go in with the mindset that you’re the starter. You prepare as one. In the NFL, there aren’t any backups. The backups are the guys at home watching on TV.”
But as Jennings prepares for his first season with the Raiders after four pro seasons in Jacksonville – where the Jaguars made him a seventh-round pick out of Liberty in 2009 – he’s aware that the No. 2 running back in Oakland has gotten quite a bit of work over the past few seasons.
Starting back Darren McFadden is one of the best in the NFL when healthy, but McFadden often isn’t. He missed four games last season, nine games in 2011 and three in 2010.
So, this offseason, the Raiders brought in Jennings, a 6-foot-1, 231-pounder who was a role player for the Jaguars. Last season, he had his busiest season, with 101 carries for 283 yards and two TDs, but with just a 2.8-yard average, while also catching 19 passes. He missed 2011 with a knee injury and had 84 carries in 2010 and 39 as a rookie in 2009.
Jennings decided Oakland would be a good fit for him because he played for new offensive coordinator Greg Olsen in Jacksonville and the Raiders were adopting a more power-oriented blocking scheme for 2013, going away from last season’s zone-blocking format. That appeals to him.
“It’s downhill football,” he said. “It’s physical football, and that’s the kind of backfield that will fit (me).”
In his debut for the Raiders Friday night in a 19-17 exhibition victory over the Cowboys, Jennings carried nine times for 39 yards (a 4.3 average), including one 16-yard burst.
Jennings has been in competition with rookie fifth-round pick Latavius Murray to win the No. 2 running back job. Murray carried eight times for 29 yards in the exhibition opener, but has missed several practices in camp because of injuries.
That might eventually give the edge to Jennings, who has more experience.
“Being available and being accountable are two things that we have to make sure we’re able to be,” Allen said of the competition between the two.
Jennings is known for the attention he pays to his body to try to stay fit, healthy and ready for work. In a recent interview with Josh Dubow of the Associated Press, Jennings said he eats a gluten-free diet rich in organic foods and has a routine that includes pilates, yoga, acupuncture and massage. He also sleeps in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber at night.
“The way I eat and take care of my body is important,” Jennings said.
Allen has said he sees Jennings as a big, physical back, and he wants him to play like one. Jennings could be a nice complement to McFadden and a key to short-yardage situations.
“He’s done some good things for us,” Allen told Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group, of Jennings’ training camp work. “One of the challenges you have for Rashad is … Rashad’s a big back. We want Rashad to play like a big back. That will be something we’re going to look at as we go into the preseason is him being that big, physical presence that we expect him to be.”