NAPA, CA. — In 2015, the Oakland Raiders rushing attack left much to be desired. They ranked 28th in the entire NFL with 1,457 yards as a team. While most see the Raiders as primarily a passing team moving in to the future, it’s still important to have somewhat of a balanced attack; or at the very least be able to run it when necessary to keep opposing defenses guessing. If the Raiders cannot do this effectively, it will be tougher to get the ball downfield to their receivers on a consistent basis.
That being said, lets take a look at the Raiders personnel heading in to the 2016 at that position.
Murray was considered to be the Raiders bell cow in 2015. On just 266 carries, Murray managed to go over the 1,000 yard mark (1,066) and had 6 touchdowns on the year. He should be able to expand on that in 2016 unless Del Rio and company decides to move more to a running back by committee.
GEORGE ATKINSON III
Atkinson mainly played on special teams and not much should change from that role in the upcoming season. in 2014, he had 7 kickoff returns for 134 yards with his longest being 28 yards.
ROY HELU JR.
Since coming over from the Redskins, Helu has had a much more limited role. He only had 114 yards behind the Raiders offensive line but in 2011, as a rookie with Washington, he broke the 1,000 yard mark (yards from scrimmage). Helu will look to try and expand his role with Oakland in the upcoming year but will have his work cut out in competition with guys like rookie, DeAndré Washington.
Jones was a 4th rounder in the 2011 draft but has not seen too much action as a pro to this point in his career. Some fans like this guy and others think he’s a waste of a roster spot. I fall somewhere in between. Jones will join the competition in the 2016 spot and be vying for time on special teams as the returner. He will compete with T.J. Carrie this preseason for a chance at that role. Jones had 74 yards on 16 carries as a running back in 2015.
Richard played ball at Southern Miss and received an invite to the Raiders camp. He signed his contract a month and a day from today to make him official as a Raider. Richard is a short stocky running back who runs with both power and elusiveness. It will be a steep hill for him to make the squad but there is always the option of working on the developmental team should he not get the nod for a spot on the 53-man roster initially.
The expectations for Washington are high. He was drafted as the 143rd pick in the draft in the 5th Round and expected to be a third down type of back because of his versatility. However, General Manager Reggie McKenzie sees his potential as being more. He very well could wind up being the primary back up to Latavius Murray and seeing significant action of all goes well in training camp and preseason. As a senior at Texas Tech, Washington had 1,877 yards from scrimmage along with 16 touchdowns.
If the Raiders can step their game up in the run game, this will be key to them making a run at the playoffs this season. There is little question that Oakland will be able to pass the ball with Derek Carr at the helm, and the defense should be improved with the key additions they made this offseason, but without at least a middle of the road running attack, it might be a steep climb in the AFC West which is one of the more competitive divisions heading in to the 2016 season.