NAPA – Raiders fullback Marcel Reece is an unquestioned talent playing an endangered position. The fullback is being marginalized in certain NFL offenses, which no longer require a hulking brute who can block, gain tough yards and catch passes out of the backfield.
Reece isn’t your typical fullback. He doesn’t fit in a box, versatile enough to flex into several roles. That’s a good thing, and it gives the Raiders a weapon most don’t have. The tough part is finding creative ways to get Reece the football in a position to make plays.
That has been a common conundrum during Reece’s career, where he’s gotten fewer touches than he probably should. Reece doesn’t tire of same ol’ storyline, even after his lowest level of involvement since 2011.
He seems as committed as ever to becoming an attractive option. That’s why he showed up to training camp lighter than at any point in his career. Reece wouldn’t offer an exact number, but he’s far lighter than the 235 pounds he carried into last year’s camp.
Reece is quicker, a bit more agile and he hopes to be a functional cog in new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave’s scheme.
“It was mostly aimed at being explosive,” Reece said after Thursday’s practice. “(Head coach Jack Del Rio) challenged me to be myself, to be explosive and sustain a high level of play through the entire season. I’ve always wanted to play at a lighter weight, and he gave me that freedom to do so.”
Reece has been active in the passing game during training camp, often split wide as a receiving option. Reece hasn’t received many carries, despite the fact that he’s averaged 4.7 yards per rush and has had at least 74 rushing yards each time he’s had 15 or more carries. Reece does most everything well, as evidenced by stats with Reece gets the ball consistently.
“Anytime you have a guy that can do multiple things, then it makes you a little more unpredictable,” Del Rio said. “You can have Marcel in the box at one point and then get him out in space in another and we’ll look to do those types of things with him.”
That’s exactly what Reece wants to hear.
“It’s exciting for me when you get a creative offensive coordinator like (Musgrave),” Reece said. “When you get that creativity in the room, you know that things are going to open up and bring a different dynamic to the offense. We’re going to be explosive. When you’re in a system like that, with the talent like we have, you can’t help but get excited about what’s ahead.”
Reece has played six head coaches since joining the Raiders in 2008. Like most Raiders fans, he has heard several unfulfilled promises to turn this team around. He could be forgiven for being pessimistic, yet he’s already all-in on Del Rio.
“I sat down with Jack shortly he first got here to get a feel for everything and see how it was going,” Reece said. “I sat back for a few weeks and observed, just to get a feel for things. He asked me, “What’s different?’ I told him, ‘So much.’”
“I’ve been through so many Raiders coaches before, but there’s something unique about this experience. Jack is a real Raider. He was born in the East Bay. He was a fan, and he has the Raiders in his heart. He walked like a Raider and talks like one. He brought other coaches in with the same mentality, and they bring a unique approach to teaching, practicing and getting players to execute. That’s where our character is going to be built.”
Reece has never completed a winning season. Above all else, that’s something he wants to change. He’s tired of the losing, tired of preseason hype and regular-season disappointment. It’s less likely the Raiders follow that pattern, and it isn’t all about Del Rio. Offensive talent has been upgraded, especially at the skill positions.
Reece should have a role in this attack, aided by talent around he considers the best Raiders collection in years.
“When you put Amari Cooper, the best young receiver in the game, across from Michael Crabtree on the edge, you have a dynamic skill group,” Reece said. “When you supplement with Clive Walford and Mychal Rivera and Latavius Murray and me and Roy Helu and Trent Richardson, you can’t stop it. This league is all about matchups, and I have great confidence we have the versatility and talent to create matchups advantageous to the Raiders.”