Raiders running back Rashad Jennings has earned more carries this season, even when Darren McFadden gets healthy. We knew that before Jennings reeled off a career-high 150 yards in a 28-23 victory over the Houston Texans.
Now head coach Dennis Allen is being asked if Jennings will take them all. That includes McFadden’s starting spot.
“I’ll say this and I’ll say it again, he’s earned the right to carry the ball,” Allen said. “Whether he starts or doesn’t start, I don’t think that’s really much of a factor. He’s going to get his touches.”
Jennings has made the most of those since McFadden succumbed to a hamstring injury three weeks ago. He has a whopping 435 yards of total offense and two touchdowns over the last three games. McFadden has 170 in the last three games he finished – that dates back to Week 3, mind you.
The biggest difference between the two: Jennings doesn’t go down easy. McFadden averages just 2.0 yards after contact. Jennings averaged 4.03 yards after contact the past three games and 3.4 overall.
“Very seldom does (Jennings) go down on first contact,” Allen said. “There are runs in there that are 2- and 3-yard runs where there’s contact at the line of scrimmage but the pile gets pushed forward for 2 and 3 yards. That’s really what you’re looking for. You want to gain a blade of grass on every single play, and we’ve done a better job of executing that over the last few weeks.”
Jennings often grinds out tough yards. On Sunday, a big pop gave him some easy ones. Jennings took a direct snap left, through a crease perfectly created by pulling right guard Mike Brisiel, left guard Lucas Nix and center Stefen Wisniewski. Fullback Marcel Reece went in first, sealed the inside and left Jennings one-on-one with safety D.J. Swearinger.
Jennings rammed Swearinger, knocked him back and kept on running.
“I didn’t know if he was going to make it or not,” Allen joked.
Jennings pulled away and scored an 80-yard touchdown vital to Sunday’s victory.
“I did look back just in case I had to make a stiff arm, but I was getting in,” Jennings said. “We had bodies on bodies, which left me one-on-one with a safety. As a running back, you have to make those plays.”
Jennings has made big plays consistently, as a rusher, receiver and pass protector. Most importantly, he’s the type of rusher the Raiders want. The team will still use McFadden when healthy. Whether he’s an accent piece or feature player remains to be seen.
As Allen always says, this is a performance-based business. Jennings has the Raiders running just fine.
“Rashad has a nice feel for what we’re doing in the run game,” Allen said. “He hits the thing downhill and, again, like I said yesterday after the game, that fits a little bit of the way I envisioned this football team playing and this offense being is a team that you’re going to have a lot of 1s, 2s, 3s and 4s, then all of a sudden you’re going to bust out a long run. That’s how you have the really productive running games.”