The Raiders re-signed Darren McFadden and brought in Maurice Jones-Drew this offseason, and hope that both will be healthy enough to give Oakland a dangerous running game in 2014.
But some believe the team’s best solution at running back might be second-year man Latavius Murray, who sat out last season with an ankle injury.
In a column on NFL.com recently, Adam Rank singled out 11 players around the league with “sleeper potential,” and penciled in Murray at No. 9.
“But wait, the Raiders have Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden, you say,” wrote Rank. “But what are the Raiders going to do for the remaining 12 games out of the season when both dudes are sidelined? The jokes sometimes write themselves.”
But Murray, a sixth-round pick of Oakland in 2013 out of Central Florida, is no joke when it comes to carrying the football. Murray is a physical, punishing running back, who at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, was a tackle-breaker in college, where as a senior he was a first-team Conference-USA selection. In his career at Central Florida he rushed for 2,424 yards and scored 37 touchdowns. He also was a terrific receiver, catching 50 passes for 524 yards and six TDs. And, at his pro day before being drafted, he ran a swift 4.38 40-yard dash.
But he sat out all of 2013 on injured reserve, so didn’t get to show what he could do, despite injuries that almost wiped out the Oakland backfield.
Now, he’s getting a chance in offseason workouts and has been praised by his coaches.
“We’re looking for big things from Latavius Murray right now, coming off the foot injury,” Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson told a reporter recently. “He’s shown, to me, the biggest upside right now in what we’ve seen thus far, if he can stay healthy.”
With Jones-Drew coming off an injury and McFadden prone to getting hurt, it’s possible that Murray will get a lot of snaps in exhibition games as the team protects its veterans. And, if Murray plays well, could open the season as the No. 3 back – then work his way up the ladder.
In just one preseason game in 2013, before suffering an ankle injury, Murray had 29 yards on eight carries vs. Dallas. It was an injury he couldn’t shake. But head coach Dennis Allen loved his potential.
“He’s a big back that’s got excellent speed and excellent size,” Allen said. “He runs tough.”
For his part, Murray is excited – after missing his first season – to be back in the mix. On his Twitter account in May, he noted he’s switching to No. 28 this season – which he wore at UCF – and is ready to roll.
Tweeted Murray: “All in.”