With quarterback Derek Carr now out for the rest of this season, it’s going to be even more important for the Raiders to run the football.
Fortunately – as they showed in Saturday’s win over the Colts – they’re capable of dominating games on the ground.
Against Indianapolis, the Raiders ran 37 times for 210 yards, an average of 5.7 yards per pop. No. 1 back Latavius Murray had just 40 yards on 15 carries, but rookies DeAndre Washington (12 rushes for 99 yards and two touchdowns) and Jalen Richard (six rushes for 66) had big days.
“I think they established a run,” said Colts linebacker Erik Walden of the Raiders’ success in the 33-25 victory. “They were able to get some runs on us. They capitalized on some opportunities where we missed tackles and where we might have had a gap. They made the plays and we didn’t. You have to give them credit.”
With three 2016 Pro Bowlers up front – left tackle Donald Penn, left guard Kelechi Osemele and center Rodney Hudson – the Raiders are well positioned to pound the football on most opponents. They rank No. 5 in the NFL in rushing this season, with 124.3 yards per game. New starting quarterback Matt McGloin will still need to make plays to keep defenses honest, of course. If he can’t, defenses will be able to stack the box. But if McGloin can establish that he can get the ball out to the likes of playmakers such as Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Seth Roberts and Clive Walford, the Raiders should be in position to keep putting pressure on opponents with their versatile, three-headed rushing attack.
William Moy of the analytic website Pro Football Focus wrote this week that the Raiders are still formidable heading into the postseason, even without Carr, an NFL MVP candidate. Murray, Washington and Richard give the Raiders a trio of talented and varied backs to continuously rotate into a game.
“DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard combined for 165 yards on 18 carries as they were able to use their shiftiness to create lanes when the point of attack was broken down, and showed how the Raiders can rely on their runners to take over in the playoffs,” he wrote.
The 12-3 Raiders will travel to Denver Sunday to take on the 8-7 Broncos in the regular-season finale. Kickoff is set for 1:25 p.m.