Going into this next season, Latavius Murray clearly is the Raiders’ No. 1 running back. The second-year pro, finally given a chance to prove himself late in the season, was very good after a breakout performance against the Chiefs on Nov. 20, when he ran for 112 yards.
Over his final four games, he put up totals of 76, 59, 86 and 37 yards and averaged 3.8 yards per carry – not great, but solid, especially considering how bad the Raiders’ running game was before Murray got his chance. The Raiders finished last in the NFL in rushing, averaging just 77.5 yards per game.
But as the Raiders prepare to upgrade their roster this offseason, it’s clear they’ll need to bring in another running back or two to help Murray.
Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew added little to the offense in 2014. Jones-Drew – even though he has a history with new head coach Jack Del Rio – shouldn’t be in the team’s plans. In his prime, Jones-Drew had quickness. Now, that’s gone. And McFadden, too, can’t break away from defenders the way he once did.
Either through the draft or free agency (or both), the Raiders need to acquire both a change-of-pace third-down speed back and another young, solid ballcarrier to fill out their backfield and help Oakland get back on track running the football.
Quarterback Derek Carr showed great promise as a rookie in 2014, but he needs to have a solid running attack to complement what he can do.
As Michael Wagaman of ESPN.com wrote recently, “Without a solid running game, Oakland will not be able to take the next step.”
There may be some big names available in free agency – such as Dallas’ DeMarco Murray – but it’s hard to see the Raiders being a match for Murray. But there should be plenty of non-elite but very good backs available.
Another option, too, is to incorporate fullback Marcel Reece more in the offensive scheme. Reece has proven he’s both a good receiver and ballcarrier. If new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave can utilize his talents, it could be a big plus.