CLEVELAND –- Running back Latavius Murray was given 18 touches each in two Raiders games thus far. That total was viewed as a bit underwhelming following a 1-1 start, especially for a young, complete back who has been efficient with the touches he was given.
“I wouldn’t expect those numbers or those statistics to remain at those levels over time,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “It’s just a two-game sample size up to this point.”
Despite adding some new age concepts to his Raiders scheme, Musgrave isn’t adverse to gaining ground the old fashioned way. He knows how to take advantage of a powerful feature back, producing career years for Adrian Peterson in Minnesota and Fred Taylor in Jacksonville. Musgrave likes to run, and run with power.
That fits Murray’s game. He’s 6-foot-3, 225 pounds and has shown breakaway speed after smashing through a crease. There’s only one ball and plenty of offensive weapons, so they aren’t completely reliant on Murray to produce.
The Raiders could and possibly should run Murray ragged on Sunday afternoon against the Cleveland Browns, ranked dead last defending the run.
Cleveland has given up a whopping 320 rushing yards in games against the New York Jets and Tennessee Titans.
The Jets’ Chris Ivory sliced ‘em up to the tune of 91 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. That isn’t embarrassing. He can play. But Bilial Powell proved deadly in that game.
Tennessee’s Dexter McCluster, an accent piece most of his career, set a career high against the Browns. Bishop Sankey was effective.
The time seems right to turn Murray and even speedster Taiwan Jones loose on the Browns defense, despite the fact Cleveland should game plan against it.
“I think everybody has to focus on the running back to try to stop the run because you don’t want to die that slow death of getting it run down your throat,” Musgrave said, “which would be the ideal way to do it.”
A solid running game would also help stay away from Cleveland’s defensive strength. The Browns have a strong secondary, with Pro Bowl players starting at every spot. That includes cornerback Joe Haden, who ranks among the NFL’s best shutdown corners.
The Browns rank No. 4 in pass defense -– pass rushers should also be included in that effort -- and have been solid in that area for some time. While there’s a healthy respect for Haden and the Browns secondary won’t stop the Raiders from throwing it around. In fact, Carr went at Haden 13 times in last year’s meeting and completed seven passes for 64 yards.
“You definitely have to know where (Haden) is at because he’s a great player,” Carr said. “Just like last year, it’s never going to shy me away from certain things. There are certain routes you know you can’t throw against that guy because he’s too good. He’ll take those away. There are other things that you can try to get guys open. You definitely know where he’s at, but if I just shut down one side of the field, I’m hurting the team. I have to be able to trust in our guys and go out and compete against them.”