Over the first three games of this season, the Raiders ranked No. 1 in the NFL in rushing.
No. 1 running back Latavius Murray didn’t have knockout stats over that span, rushing for 59, 57 and 37 yards, but those stats were a bit deceiving.
He had just 32 carries and averaged 4.78 yards per attempt, with three touchdowns. He also caught eight passes.
With Murray leading the way behind a solid offensive line, the Raiders were also using rookies DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard and fullback Jamize Olawale very effectively, giving quarterback Derek Carr a solid ground game to balance the passing attack.
But over the past three games, Murray has been mostly missing. He hurt a toe against the Ravens in Game 4 and the Oakland offense has suffered in his absence.
The Raiders have dropped to 13th in the league in rushing.
Now, as Oakland prepares for back-to-back games in Florida, against Jacksonville Sunday and Tampa Bay Oct. 30, the team would very much like to get Murray back into the lineup. His blend of power and speed has been missing.
“He’s anxious to return,” head coach Jack Del Rio told reporters this week. “He’s definitely better, so it’s just a matter of when he feels like he can fully participate, push off full speed, be ready to go.”
In a loss to the Chiefs this past Sunday to drop their record to 4-2, the Raiders ran for just 65 yards.
At this point, Murray’s return Sunday appears questionable. The Raiders want him back, but they also want him back fully healthy so they don’t lose him again.
Until then, Del Rio believes Washington, Richard and Olawale can be effective.
“We have other players that can get things done,” Del Rio said. “We expect to be able to continue on with the guys that we have.”