Editor’s note: Scott Bair is in Indianapolis to cover the NFL Combine. Check back for his comprehensive coverage and catch his nightly updates on SportsNet Central.
INDIANAPOLIS – The Raiders produced their first 1,000-yard rusher in some time last season. Latavius Murray picked up 1,066 yards in 2015, the first time a runner hit quadruple digits since 2010.
That’s a solid accomplishment, and it pushed Murray into the Pro Bowl. By most any other standard, the Raiders run game wasn’t good enough. They ranked No. 28 with 91.1 yards per game.
While Murray was effective at times and always a big-play threat, the run game waned as the season wore on. There was no second option for the Raiders 266 times, with quarterback Derek Carr’s run total unfortunately second on the list.
Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio knows the ground game wasn’t good enough. Even two months after the season, it bothers him still.
“We didn’t run effectively enough,” Del Rio said Wednesday in an interview with SiriusXM NFL radio. “That’s one of the things we’re addressing right now. Some of it is who we were running it with. Some of it is how we’re blocking for that runner and some of it is coaching and play design. Also at issue was the number of times we did it. We didn’t run as much because we weren’t as effective as we needed to be. It’s one of those things that snowballed in a bad way.”
It certainly did. The run game struggled and the offense became one dimensional as a result. Opponents started playing two safeties deep with linebackers in coverage, making passing difficult on quarterback Derek Carr. That dip conincided with improved defense, something the Raiders rued during close games lost near season’s end.
Del Rio viewed Murray’s season as a mixed bag that left plenty of room to improve.
“He had some good moments, and there were things he’ll want to do better going forward,” Del Rio said. “He’s an explosive young man with long speed. He’s still growing as a player, so there’s an opportunity to go back and work on some things this spring that will allow him to come out and have a better year next year.”
The Raiders hope Murray will be more efficient with a decreased workload. They’re in the market for another running back, either through free agency or the draft. They’ve even been linked to Ohio State rusher Ezekiel Elliott, a first round talent who might be available at No. 14 overall. There’s also good value later in the draft, or with a properly compensated veteran like Matt Forte.
The run game could also improve with an upgrade at right guard, a post manned ineffectively last year by J’Marcus Webb.
The Raiders are committed to running better and will explore the avenues required to do so.
“There’s no doubt about our desire to run the ball,” Del Rio said. “(Offensive line coach) Mike Tice has been part of physical line play and running the ball well. That’s what I want. It’s something that (offensive coordinator) Bill Musgrave has done in his past. We need to make sure we run well. We have to be able to do that. Next year at this time, we won’t talk about reasons why we didn’t run well. We’ll talk about reasons why we did.”