Editor’s note: Insider Scott Bair will analyze each position group leading up to Raiders training camp, which starts on July 29.
The Raiders rushing attack looked good at times, just not enough. The ground game went quiet, often in crucial moments of a year where it ranked No. 28 in the NFL.
Latavius Murray was somewhat disappointed in his 1,000-yard season, despite the fact it ended in a Pro Bowl berth. His 266 carries ranked No. 3 overall, a total that would’ve been mitigated with a quality backup. The Raiders went searching for one in the draft, and plucked DeAndre Washington out of the fifth round. He joins an incumbent group looking to find a proper mesh behind a threatening offensive line.
The running backs must produce steadily for this team and its offense to reach new heights and control games built with an early lead.
- Latavius Murray
- DeAndre Washington
- Marcel Reece
- Jamize Olawale
- Taiwan Jones
- Roy Helu Jr.
- Jalen Richard
- George Atkinson III
1. Can DeAndre Washington make an instant impact?
It’s hard, maybe even unfair, to count on a late-round pick to step in and play right away, but the Raiders certainly hope DeAndre Washington can do exactly that. The Texas Tech alum is tough interior runner and a solid receiver out of the backfield, offering a third-down option the Raiders have lacked in recent seasons. Washington has different skills than Murray, and would provide an excellent compliment to the run game. This coaching staff doesn’t gift responsibility even to those they hope will take it, so Washington will have to earn this role in 2016.
2. Will Murray find greater consistency?
Murray is a home-run hitter. He had several big runs in 2015, flashing breakneck speed in the open field. That’s great, only if someone expected to be a feature back can churn out tough yards as well. Those didn’t come easy, especially as carries piled up. Murray has been working to prepare for a true feature back role, though he should benefit from extra help – he should be Washington’s biggest fan – and an improved offensive line. Murray must show improved ball security and absorb hits better near the line of scrimmage to do his thing in open space. When the pads come on, we’ll have a better idea if Murray’s ready for an improved season.
3. Will Roy Helu rebound?
Roy Helu was a healthy scratch most of last season, a shocking turn considering his expected production after signing with the Raiders last offseason. The Danville native had offseason hip surgeries that should improve his mobility. If it doesn’t and he continues last year’s trend, he could end up a preseason roster cut especially if others shine. If he improves and finds 2014 form – he was a solid third-down back in Washington -- Helu could be the back many anticipated last season.