The Raiders gave Latavius Murray just four total touches Saturday night against Tennessee. The two-carry count was purposefully low in a preseason game where starters played an extended stretch, designed to organize the depth chart behind him.
“We have a body of work under Latavius,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “For us, the bigger question coming in was to find out who would be the backup back.”
The Raiders will choose between fifth-round rookie DeAndre Washington and undrafted rusher Jalen Richard, who didn’t make the decision easy.
Both players took advantage of first-team reps and return opportunities, making it entirely possible the Raiders work both into the regular-season game plan.
Washington finished with eight carries for 55 yards, three catches for minus-2 yards and a touchdown, and a 21-yard kickoff return on Saturday night. Richard had seven carries for 35 yards, two catches for seven more and two kickoff returns for 57 yards.
Both guys got plenty of work, and both players maximized the opportunity.
“I thought they both ran hard, ran with vision,” Del Rio said. “They make people miss, so I was pleased, pleased with both of them really. They were pretty good in the return game as well.
“Going into the offseason we were hoping we could develop a running back that could be a really good backup for us, and it looks like we have a shot at having one of those guys help us, potentially both. We’ll see.”
Washington was drafted out of Texas Tech to be Murray’s compliment. Washington is a versatile talent used to shotgun formations and a pass-happy offense, able to make an immediate impact as a third-down back. He has lived up to that billing, with 135 yards total offense over three games.
He has made several big plays, including a 31-yard run and a 3-yard touchdown reception where he ran a near-perfect route and found an opening on the goal line. He also lost a fumble returned for a touchdown, but he got hit extremely hard and was put in a bad spot by backup Matt McGloin.
Richard’s preseason debut was a successful one. He missed the first two exhibitions with a knee injury now in his rearview, but started his first professional touch with a 38-yard kickoff return.
“I was envisioning that the whole day,” Richard said, who said his knee felt no worse for Saturday’s wear. “I wish I could’ve taken it to the house. That definitely got my confidence up for the rest of the game.”
That was evident in Richard and Washington, young players who believe they can compete at the NFL level. They’ve been lumped together this preseason due to their age and stature. Both guys are short, powerful rushers able to make people miss in the open field.
“I think we rely on the same thing, but I think we’re different in a lot of ways, too,” Washington said. “We’re both here for a reason, to utilize our talents to the best of our abilities.”
Those abilities are illustrated with aggressiveness that has helped their cause. It possible, even likely, that both players make the 53-man roster. They have impressed in practice in games by what they’ve done and how they run.
“I felt like they did a great job,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “The game wasn’t too fast for them. They weren’t anxious. They weren’t nervous. They just came in and ran hard. I remember turning around and handing the ball to Jalen. I turned around and handed it to him and he was gone. That dude hit the hole so hard. I’m used to Latavius doing that but, usually, with a younger guy, they kind of dance and they want to see it and things like that. Nah, he just put his head in there and didn’t even care. That’s really good.”