As our series of training camp competition continues, running backs are on the docket. The Oakland Raiders have one of the best running backs the NFL offers in Darren McFadden. He is the unquestioned starter. However, with his injury history, the competition for the number two running back spot is important.
McFadden never made the transition into the zone blocking scheme a year ago. As a result he finished with a 3.3 yards per carry average, the lowest of his career. The previous two seasons he was able to average more than five yards a carry. He still exhibits the explosiveness, speed, and power that make him one of the premier offensive weapons in the game. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson has more of a downhill running game which suits McFadden and the offensive line. Oakland has to improve their running game from last season or they can expect a similarly disappointing season.
With McFadden the clear number one and having never finished a 16 game season, the Raiders addressed the running back position this offseason. They allowed Mike Goodson to walk in free agency and replaced him with Rashad Jennings. The team also selected Latavius Murray with a sixth round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft. Murray and Jennings will battle during training camp for the back-up running back position.
Murray has been able to draw the attention of teammates and the coaching staff during organized team activities and mini-camp. At 6-3, 230 pounds, Murray has the size and strength to be a battering ram. The Raiders had a number of difficulties picking up third down and short yardage last year and Murray could be the remedy. He also has some pass catching chops with 50 career receptions at UCF. Presently, Murray is the front runner to be the primary back-up, but must solidify that standing with a strong training camp.
Jennings would be the number three back right now. He comes to the Raiders after spending four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars. When starter Maurice Jones-Drew was injured last season, Jennings received his opportunity as a starter. It was a struggle as he under whelmed with a 2.8 yards per carry average. In 2009 and 2010, he averaged more than five yards per carry. At 6-1, 230 pounds, Jennings is another bigger back on the Raiders' roster. When Taiwan Jones was moved to cornerback, the Raiders moved to a philosophy of big, physical running backs.
The wildcard in the running back competition is Jeremy Stewart. When the Raiders were riddled with injuries a year ago, Stewart stepped forward and made a nice impression. He saw action in four games, carrying the ball 25 times for 101 yards and adding eight receptions. The former Stanford back could earn his way onto the team if they keep four running backs or he will have to beat out Jennings at training camp.
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