Raiders running back Latavius Murray shed a tackler, found a seam and steamed ahead for a productive gain. The third-year pro got up to cheers from Sunday’s O.co Coliseum crowd and, as he maneuvered back to the huddle, the chugging cadence of a locomotive blared over the PA.
The meaning might’ve escaped some paying loose attention. The steam engine sound was a subtle, surprising homage to the “Tay Train.”
That’s Murray’s nickname, for the uninitiated.
“I had no idea they were going to do that,” Murray said before Wednesday’s practice. “It gave me chills. What a cool moment.”
It repeated a few times, normally when the Central Florida product worked out a tough gain or earned a first down. Those moments occurred often, though the opportunities weren’t as frequent as expected considering the Raiders were ahead of Baltimore most of the afternoon.
Murray had 15 carries for 65 yards and a touchdown, and had three more receptions for 22 yards. He averaged 4.3 yards per touch that day, without a single effort going for negative yards.
The Raiders are averaging 4.6 yards per carry, yet passing 2.54 times to every rush in a small sample size. The Raiders were forced to throw a ton in Week 1 chasing the Bengals by double digits. The running game has been efficient early. Can it do more?
“Oh, that’s my best friend,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “When they’re going and he’s going, it makes the receiver’s job easier. It makes our job easier in the passing game. I think he’s done a great job. I think he’ll continue to do a great job.”
Murray is doing a solid job with the touches he’s given. He had 18 touches in both games this season. Murray’s carry total started at 11 and went to 15 in Week 2. Murray has been asked to do several things, proving adept at pass protection, receiving and rushing inside and outside the tackles. He ran well, but his best effort came on a hard-fought 12-yard reception on a two-minute drill that beat the Ravens.
He has been involved in 66-percent of the Raiders’ snaps. After both games, Murray’s workload was asked if it could’ve been higher. That seems to be rational because he’s been an efficient weapon thus far.
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave has a history of feeding feature backs, and it seems likely Murray will have games as the focal point.
“You never know when it will happen, but I would obviously love the ball in my hands more, as any offensive player would,” Murray said. “My main focus is being productive with the touches I’m given. I want to break some long ones and create some explosive plays. You’re not going to have that every time, but you have to keep working on them.”
Murray has a penchant for earning extra yards. He’s difficult to bring down, as Pro Football Focus numbers attest. The football analysis site came up with an “elusive rating,” designed to show a rusher’s effectiveness outside of blocking efforts. The site looks at missed tackles forced and yards after contact as compared to touches.
Murray has the NFL’s No. 4 elusive rating, with 10 missed tackles forced and is averaging nearly three yards after contact via rush and reception.
If he remains efficient, Musgrave will find ways to get Murray the football. In games where rushing is an advantageous matchup, Murray’s carry totals should rise.
“It depends on what kind of defenses they’re playing, what kinds of packages they have on the field and those types of things,” Carr said. “There are definitely times where we’re going to give the ball to him 40 times. I’m good with that. As long as we win, I don’t care what we do.”
That’s a sentiment shared by those on offense. The Raiders mixed it up well while beating the Ravens in a shootout. They might have to win games that way, especially if the defense struggles as it has the first few weeks.
“We’re extremely confident in ourselves as an offense and in what we’re capable of doing,” Murray said. “It all comes down to execution. There will be some tense moments like there were against Baltimore, and we have to come through in the clutch.”