There is a lot to like about Kory Sheets.
The 5-foot-11 running back is quick, experienced and has professional success. In the past two seasons in the Canadian Football League for Saskatchewan, Sheets rushed for 1,277 and 1,598 yards and scored a total of 23 touchdowns. And, he was the MVP in the league’s championship game, the Grey Cup, with a monster 197-yard rushing game.
But his best quality? It might be his hunger.
Sheets, 29, is determined to make the Oakland Raiders roster and finally prove what he can do in the NFL.
After very short stints with the 49ers, Dolphins and Panthers since not being drafted out of Purdue in 2009, Sheets knows time isn’t on his side.
“This is my last shot,” Sheets told Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com this week. “As a 29-year-old unproven running back in the NFL, you don’t get too many chances to mess up. So whenever you do get the ball … the opportunity to make a play, you’ve got to go out there and make it.”
So far, he’s making a positive impression.
On Monday, Sheets showed off some breakaway speed with a pair of long runs in 11-on-11 drills.
“I’m seeing some nice run skills,” head coach Dennis Allen said after Monday’s practice. “Kory’s a guy that he’s still got some work to do from the protection standpoint, but as far as a turn-around, hand-him-the-ball-and-let-him-go-run-with-it (back), he’s got some very good run instincts and he’s got an exceptional burst when he gets into open space.”
Sheets came into camp behind Darren McFadden, Maurice Jones-Drew, Latavius Murray and Jeremy Stewart, but he’s showing he has something to add to the offense. He could evolve into a nice change-of-pace back. Raiders coaches like Sheets’ abilities as a receiver.
“I like the depth that we have at the running back position,” said Allen, when speaking about Sheets’ contributions so far. “I mean, I think it’s a nice battle to see which guys are going to end up making the 53-man roster.”
At Purdue, Sheets was a playmaker. He’s the Boilermakers’ all-time touchdown leader with 54 and is No. 2 in rushing (3,341 yards).
Yet so far, his NFL regular-season career consists of two games played and one carry for 5 yards. This summer, however, Sheets should get plenty of action in preseason games to show what he can do, especially because the Raiders won’t likely play veterans Jones-Drew and McFadden. As Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle noted recently, Sheets and Murray may get the bulk of the snaps in exhibition games.
“I’ve always wanted to play in the NFL,” Sheets told Eddie Paskal of Raiders.com in June. “When I was down here (the NFL) before, in Miami, I really didn’t get a chance to play because of my injuries. I feel like now I’m ready and I have one more shot to do it and I’m going to take full advantage of it.”