The Oakland Raiders, for all of their flaws and deficiencies last season, didn’t fare too poorly in the running game. They averaged a respectable — though far from spectacular — 125 yards per game rushing, which was good enough to be the 12th best running attack in the league. But with last season’s leading runner, Rashad Jennings, departed to the New York Giants via free agency, and the team’s second leading rusher, QB Terrelle Pryor traded to the Seattle Seahawks, Oakland suddenly had some holes to fill in their running game.
To that end, they re-signed the chronically injured Darren McFadden with the hope that, by splitting carries with Maurice Jones-Drew who was picked up as a free agent from the Jacksonville Jaguars, both would be fresh and avoid serious injury. Though Jones-Drew and McFadden form a potentially lethal RB tandem, there is another back in Oakland’s stable who may have one of the bigger impacts on the Raiders’ running game — second year back Latavius Murray.
After a stellar pro-day prior to the 2013 draft, UCF running back Latavius Murray saw his stock shoot up the charts in the eyes of many NFL scouts. However, perhaps as a testament to the devaluation of the running back position, Murray didn’t see his name called on draft day until the sixth round, when Oakland took him with the 181st overall pick. But injuries robbed Murray of his rookie season and the Raiders of a real glimpse at the possible future of their running attack.
Despite the fact that Murray had to sit out an entire season because of his injuries, he didn’t just sit back and take it easy. He was constantly trying to learn and absorb as much as he could about the game, finding ways to continue his development as a pro back. In a recent interview given while helping run the CNY Football Academy youth camp, Murray said:
“The fact that I had to sit out a whole year, I was able to learn from it. Mentally, still being able to be in the meeting room and watch film with those guys, I think it’s going to help me out tremendously.”
Now Murray is healthy and is doing everything he can to break into the rotation alongside McFadden and Jones-Drew. His efforts and hard work haven’t gone unnoticed. Raiders OC Greg Olson recently had this to say about the second-year back:
“We’re looking for big things from Latavius Murray right now, coming off the foot injury. He’s shown, to me, the biggest upside right now in what we’ve seen thus far, if he can stay healthy.”
With a stable that includes Jones-Drew, McFadden, Marcel Reece, Jeremy Stewart, Kory Sheets and Murray, the Raiders have a deep, versatile and explosive running attack. Perhaps even one of the most dynamic in the league. Certainly they have a number of backs capable of making people miss and scoring from anywhere on the field. And with a vastly upgraded offensive line able to sustain blocks and open holes, the Raiders have every reason to believe that their rushing attack, not exactly anemic last season, will be even more potent and potentially among the best in the league.
And Latavius Murray figures to be a big part of that.
He’s practically solidified his spot as the number three back behind Jones-Drew and McFadden. But given McFadden’s injury history — as well as Murray’s own development — it’s not outside the realm of possibility that we are going to see a lot more of Murray this season. For his part, Murray is hungry and eager to get back to work.
“When you see those guys walk out that tunnel, you know the feeling that they’re having, because I’ve had it before, you miss that feeling. When they’re out there, you wish you were out there grinding with them. So it’ll be fun to have that back. It’ll be good to be out there with them.”
And if Olson is right about his upside, Murray and the Raiders will have a lot of reasons to get excited.