ALAMEDA – Latavius Murray has just 82 professional carries. That’s an incredibly small sample size to base high expectations. That didn’t sully the Raiders’ opinion of a young running back they believe can be a productive pro.
New head coach Jack Del Rio saw glimmers of hope on last year’s game film.
“All young players have areas where they can improve,” Del Rio said after Wednesday’s mandatory minicamp practice, “but you certainly saw explosive moments where he showed big-time speed and an ability to finish.”
There certainly were explosive moments. We all remember when the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder broke off a 90-yard touchdown run against Kansas City. That’s Murray’s highlight, so it’s easy to forget that he had a carry or reception over 20 yards in five of his last six games. Aided by some big runs, Murray averaged 5.2 yards on 82 carries.
Del Rio saw from game tape he had a home run hitter. In two-plus months watching Murray work in person, there might be more than that. Maybe. His physical tools were as evident as they were on tape, but a commitment to conditioning and improvement without a football in hand has been a nice revelation.
“A lot of kids in college just run it, but there’s a lot more to the running back position in the NFL,” Del Rio said. “You have to secure it, protect your quarterback and run routes. All those are areas where he can grow.
“You need to make sure you’re as conditioned and healthy as possible, so that your body is ready to absorb the punishment you’re going to take playing that position. Having a strong offseason is a step in the right direction for him.”
Murray has, thus far, been given every opportunity to secure the starting job, a position that must be earned with effort throughout training camp and the preseason.
The third-year pro understands and accepts high expectations. He welcomes them with a subtle confidence that he can be productive in this league. The Central Florida product was given opportunities to be cocky during Wednesday’s press conference and bypassed them all.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself, and I know how important this opportunity is,” Murray said. “This is a big year for me, and I know what I need to do to go out there and prove myself. I hold myself to a high standard.”
The Raiders will, too. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave will run the ball often. He’ll run with power. Musgrave has historically favored a primary back – he has had some good ones in Fred Taylor and Adrian Peterson – and Murray believes he can handle an intense workload.
“As long as I stay healthy, I think I’ll be fine,” he said. “I know what I’m supposed to do out there. I know how to do it. It’s a matter of getting better at little things every day.
“I like to think I’m a complete back, as far as knowing my assignments and protections and being a back who can catch passes out of the backfield. There are little things and techniques I can improve on, but I think I can be a threat in several areas. As long as I’m improving, I think I’ll be just fine.”