He wasn’t a first-round draft pick, he didn’t go to a powerhouse college football program and he entered this summer’s training camp with more unknowns than knowns.
But Latavius Murray has proven that he may turn out to be one of the Raiders’ biggest playmakers in the 2014 season.
While Raiders observers wait for the announcement Monday afternoon about which quarterback will start in Game 1 vs. the Jets this coming Sunday – veteran Matt Schaub or rookie Derek Carr – they already know that Murray enters the season No. 3 on the depth chart behind veterans Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew.
But based on the way Murray performed for Oakland in training camp and four exhibition games, Murray very possibly will rise to the top by the time this season is over.
While the Raiders hope McFadden and Jones-Drew have regained their lost form in recent injury-marred years, Oakland finally knows it has a very capable backup for the first time since Michael Bush was on the roster.
The second-year pro from Central Florida, at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, proved he’s a punishing, physical back in the preseason. In the final exhibition game, playing primarly against the Seahawks starting defense, Murray carried eight times for 41 yards and a touchdown. Over four games he carried 23 times for 94 yards and a 4.1-yard average.
Murray, who missed his rookie season in 2013 because of a foot injury, has taken advantage of his opportunities this summer at both running back and kick returner. He returned five kickoffs for 120 yards, with a long of 38. He’s shown both power and speed, and the chance to play well against Seattle gave him even more confidence.
“It definitely meant a lot,” Murray told reporters after the win over the Seahawks. “I wanted to go out and compete against those first-team guys. That was big for the offense and I definitely showed I could go out and compete with those guys.”
Murray, who was a sixth-round draft choice in 2013, says he felt ready to prove himself coming into this summer camp.
“I’m basically a rookie again,” he said. “There was some benefit of sitting out last year. I learned the mental part of the game. I really feel like I have an advantage going into this season.”
Should McFadden or Jones-Drew falter, Murray will be ready to step right in. Based on how he ran in preseason, he could blossom into a star in 2014. For now, however, head coach Dennis Allen is just glad he has a solid threesome in McFadden, Jones-Drew and Murray.
“I really like what I saw out of Latavius Murray and I like what I’ve seen all camp,” Allen said after the Seattle game Thursday night. “I think with him, MJD and Darren McFadden, that’s a pretty good backfield.”
The big question is, of course, who will be handing the ball off to those three backs?