Latavius Murray has been the Raiders’ featured running back the past two weeks, and he’s going to remain in that role the rest of the season. Interim head coach Tony Sparano said Monday he hadn’t considered diversification, and he isn’t expected to before season’s end.
There’s no reason why he should. Murray has been by far the Raiders’ best tailback this season, showing tremendous power, burst and vision. While he hasn’t been quite as dynamic as his Week 12 effort where he had 112 yards and two touchdowns on four carries, he’s been solid.
Murray has 135 yards on 35 carries over the past two games, a 3.85-yard per carry average that includes yeoman’s work against a stout 49ers front. He only had 12 carries Sunday against the Chiefs, but churned out 4.9 yards per carry and had a 25-yard run that proves a big-play can happen at any time.
“I thought Latavius did a good job running the football,” Sparano said. “I thought he ran the ball hard, made a couple of good cuts. … There were some things there that were done really well, really efficiently in the run game yesterday. Probably one of our better efficiency days running the football.”
That was due to some quality blocking and Murray’s ability. He has the physical tools to excel at this level, and now has the opportunity to showcase them as a primary back. This is an important stretch for Murray to prove he’s worthy of retaining this role next season. While it’s an audition of sorts, Murray isn’t framing these two weeks as such.
“I just want to go out there and be productive, that’s for sure,” Murray said. “I want to do anything I can to help the team win. In that process, if it is just proving that maybe I deserve a chance to remain the starter, that’s it, but that’s not really what has been in my train of thought. Just really getting better, doing anything I can to help the team win and running hard.”
At 6-foot-3, 225 pounds Murray can be a pile mover. He always seems to lean forward for extra yards, something key to churning out first downs. His patience has been impressive as well. He’ll sit and wait for a rushing lane, then burst through it with tremendous acceleration.
“You have to have patience and obviously you have to be on the same page with the offensive line,” Murray said. “You have to know the scheme, where the ball is supposed to be, where it’s supposed to hit and then if something does go wrong, you have to know how to react on the spur of the moment. We’re still getting better. We’re still learning each week as a whole, as far as the running backs and the offensive line goes, so I think we definitely can only get better.”
Like most players, Murray gets better by doing. He didn’t do much during a rookie season lost to an ankle injury. The 2013 sixth-round pick finally got his feet right during the time off and came back physically able to make an impact. He was stuck on third string before progressing enough to see significant game action. Now that his playing time is up, each game tape is valuable to his development.
“Without a doubt,” Murray said. “Being on the practice field is completely different to going out there in real, game action, so I definitely think I’m learning. I’m learning also on the practice field, but you’re definitely learning out there on the field against opponents. It can only help myself when I go in and see the film and correct it and just get better each week.”