The Raiders entered this offseason looking for help at running back. Head coach Jack Del Rio wouldn’t call the need pressing, but it certainly existed after Latavius Murray carried the ball far too often in 2015.
The Raiders retained his supporting cast and, after ignoring the position during free agency and early portions of the NFL Draft, general manager Reggie McKenzie nabbed DeAndre Washington in the fifth round.
The Texas Tech alum is Murray’s opposite, standing 5-foot-8, 204 pounds. He’s tough, hides behind lineman and works well in space. Murray is seven inches taller and more of a slash-and-go runner.
Those differences were part of a plan. The Raiders didn’t want a carbon copy. They wanted a compliment.
They hope the rookie can adapt quickly and make an instant impact this season. That’s no certainty, but it seems Washington will be given an opportunity to do that.
He ran with the first unit during last week’s minicamp, and looked good considering the offseason program conducts practice without pads. While that doesn't portend a high carry count this fall, it's a sign the Raiders are interested in his talents. Washington wasn’t worried about being perfect, but he wanted to make a solid first impression.
“I’m a humble guy, and I wanted to show that I’m willing to do whatever’s required for the team,” Washington said. “On the field, I want to show versatility. I can do a number of things for the team, whether it’s offense or special teams.”
Washington has experience as a return man, where he has worked as an option thus far. Offensively, Washington could be good on third down, and mix in well where Roy Helu Jr. was oil to water last year. The veteran was signed last season but often ended up a healthy scratch. Helu hasn’t practiced this offseason while recovering from hip surgeries, and could have to fight for a roster spot.
At this stage, the Raiders are still figuring out what Washington does well in their offense.
“He’s really worked well for us thus far, so we’re putting him in different situations, again, to get a feel for he’s strengths and how we can tailor plays, tailor situations so he can really flash for us,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “He’s going to be good in first, second or third down.”
Washington did a little of everything at Texas Tech. He registered a whopping 233 carries and 41 receptions as a senior, averaging 6.9 yards per touch in the Red Raiders scheme.
That was then. The NFL is a whole new experience.
”At Texas Tech there was a really high tempo,” Washington said. ”Obviously the NFL pace is at another level, but I feel like I’m adjusting to it well. I’m ready to keep working and building as we head towards training camp.”
He’ll be in good shape if that happens, because the Raiders need reinforcements in the run game. Murray struggled some as carries piled up. Helu was a rare option. Fullback Jamize Olawale only got 24 carries but averaged 4.6 yards per carry. Marcel Reece was more of a receiving option.
Washington isn’t focused on which unit he joins. He wants to continue learning to be prepared when it matters most.
“Every day is a new learning experience,” Washington said. “There’s a lot of excitement, a lot of fun. As a rookie, your head’s really spinning trying to get acclimated to being not only in the Raiders organization, but also on the West Coast. It’s hectic, but it’s fun.
“Right now, I’m just working hard. We’ll worry about all that other stuff down the line. My only goal is just working hard to get better.”