ALAMEDA – Latavius Murray started every game in 2015. Last season’s Raiders are certainly thankful for that.
They didn’t have another solid option at running back, a point proven by Murray receiving 72 percent of the team’s carries.
This season, the Raiders made sure they had options. They drafted DeAndre Washington and then struck gold with tryout player Jalen Richard.
The pair has been productive, allowing the Raiders to use a by-committee approach on the ground. Murray leads the way with 40 carries, Washington has 23 and Richard has 17. They’ve generally rotated series or sections of plays, meaning roles are undefined enough where any player could step in for another.
That might be necessary heading into Sunday’s home game against San Diego. Murray is battling a toe injury, reportedly turf toe – a sprain in ligaments around the big toe -- and it’s uncertain whether he’ll be ready to play the Chargers.
Murray and the Raiders haven’t given up hope on him playing this game.
“We hope that (Murray) can get back by Sunday,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “I know that he’s working extremely hard at it. They are working with his shoes and things like that to help him in that regard. We just have to wait and see.”
The Raiders will have a plan if Murray can’t go. It will include a steady dose of rookie rushers that already have seen live action.
“We hope it helps,” Musgrave said. “They’ve gotten some valuable experience.”
Washington has 137 yards on 28 touches. Richard has 183 yards and a touchdown on 22 touches, though a large chunk came on a 75-yard touchdown run at New Orleans.
Both guys have contributed in all situations including the passing game, where rookies are usually deficient.
“It has helped us immensely,” Musgrave said. “They are so sharp in pass protection as well as when we get them in passing game as receivers. Latavius is our smartest pass protector, working with the offensive line and (line coach Mike Tice), but these young guys have really fallen in step with him so that we can trust them, and that opens up a lot of great avenues for us.”
Washington feels a lot more confortable in the scheme at this point. Richard is in a similar spot. They feel comfortable that, if Murray can’t play and the rotation drops a man, the NFL’s No. 5-ranked rushing attack will be just fine.
Both guys are smaller in height, running backs who can get lost behind a massive offensive line and burst through cracks into the second level. They’ve been effective running the ball though, without Murray, they wouldn’t be complimenting a bigger, slashing back. There’s still confidence among the rookies, a sentiment validated with early-season experience.
“The experience has been huge,” Washington said. “We’re both playmakers. We both do good things and have good strengths. It’s run to watch Jalen do his thing. It’s like a tag-team deal. He comes out, and then I go do my thing. You just have to be ready when your number gets called.”