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His next 10 carries of the first half went for 21 yards. Then the Raiders’ No. 1 running back carried twice for 7 yards early in the third quarter. And that was it. Murray didn’t play again, watching on the sideline of a close game for the second Sunday in a row.
HC Jack Del Rio said Murray was a little banged up, saying his shoulder was bugging him. However he added that the back was "available" which opens the possibility it was again a coach's decision that Murray was on the bench.
The Raiders instead went with third-down back Roy Helu as the lead back on the final dive. Helu, who had scored a touchdown and made a few other plays, was stopped on a third-and-2 that forced Oakland to kick a field goal instead of going for a touchdown late in the game. The Raiders ended up losing, 22-20.
The absence of Murray was glaring in the key moment. The Raiders took him out after a rough day. Murray had 49 yards on 16 carries, he lost a fumble in the fourth quarter and he bobbled a pass that was intercepted in Oakland territory.
Still, Oakland coach Jack Del Rio was adamant Monday in saying Murray wasn’t benched. He said the team thought Helu was the best option for that situation.
“I would characterize it us as using the members of our football team in a fashion to give ourselves an opportunity to win the game,” Del Rio said. “We have different plays that we run with different players at different times of the game. So it wasn’t a benching. So that’s not accurate.”
The 6-foot-3, 228-pound Murray remains in Oakland’s mix and Del Rio said he believes he will back bounce back nicely. This may be a teaching tool for the young back as the Raiders also can't afford to give up on him. It could also mean Helu gets a few more snaps and touches going forward and may be a worthwhile own for Murray owners if his mistakes continue.
Helu was expected to be a change of pace back as well as a pass-catching option for the Raiders - and a PPR option for fantasy owners. But, Helu was injured much of the preseason and finds himself buried on the depth chart right now.
The Redskins obviously will start Alfred Morris, and he'll get the bulk of the carries. But the coaches really like Matt Jones, more than they ever liked Roy Helu as a runner. Helu had 40 carries as the primary backup last season; Jones will have plenty more. But the tough question to know is how many carries he'll get per game. A lot depends on sustaining drives, obviously. But the Redskins maintain the run game will power the offense. It'll be interesting this week to see if Miami tries to stop the run with a seven-man front because of its line strength.
We're currently projecting Morris for 224 carries with Jones getting 113 to go along with 29 touches. He could have weekly flex appeal if the Washington offense is better than expected.
Latavius Murray only has 82 professional carries, but he’s inspired great confidence in the Raiders coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, for one, has become a fan over the last six months. They’ve seen the tools required for success during the offseason program and the preseason. Murray doesn’t need many game reps to validate those sentiments, cemented by the third-year pro’s willingness to work on becoming a well-rounded back.
"He’s made very positive impressions,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said after Thursday’s practice. “He has been working a lot on his hands so he can be a good receiver out of the backfield, because we don’t want a guy that’s going to be a liability when we go to throw the ball. He’s really been working on that. Of course, he’s got the body and the ability to really be a good player at this level.”
Murray has found a way to turn small opportunities into big gains, by bouncing into a new rushing lane at as moments notice.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if those cuts are directly correlated to his vision,” Musgrave said. “He’s got great vision. Not just because he’s tall, even if he was 5-8. I think he’d have really good vision. He can anticipate things and jump through those cracks, almost before they open.”
On Roy Helu Jr.: “Roy brings a lot of experience. He’s had a lot of production there with the Redskins, and so glad to have him back out healthy. He’s been out a couple days. Hopefully, he can stay healthy.
“If he stays healthy. If he is available, we’re very willing to give him his opportunities (to be more than a third-down back).”
Murray rushed 82 times for 424 yards (a 5.2 YPC) and two touchdowns, including an incredible four-carry, 112-yard, two-TD performance against the Chiefs in Week 12. He still averaged a solid (if unspectacular) 4.0 YPC when that game is excluded. With good size (6'2, 223 lbs) and great speed (4.38 40-yard dash), Murray has all the physical tools to succeed at the position. He even showed solid hands with 17 receptions on 23 targets. According to ESPN’s Adam Caplan, a Raiders source said that Murray is “freak” and has a chance to have “a huge year” in 2015. Helu may eat into Murray's third-down work, so don't expect Murray to be a three-down back.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015, 5:54pm
The Oakland Raiders got back three key players from injury Wednesday.
Third-down running back Roy Helu (hamstring) returned to practice Wednesday as Oakland begins preparing for Sunday’s home preseason game against Arizona.
Helu, who signed as a free agent from Washington, has missed all but a couple of days of training camp. He is expected to be a key contributor on offense.
Some Raiders notes from beat writer Jerry McDonald:
• Once the preseason begins, it should be one series and out for Derek Carr.
The Raiders simply can’t afford a third quarterback flip-flop in three years, and the only way this happens is if Carr gets hurt. It’s impossible to know how good Carr will be, but he’s light years ahead of Christian Ponder and Matt McGloin, who look to be in a dead-heat to be the backup.
Really interested to see Taiwan Jones in a game situation. Back at running back, he’s had some sensational moments in camp. But beware - speed backs can dominate in non-tackling situations (see Darren McFadden, any year).
• Michael Crabtree has caught everything in sight and seems to have an immediate connection with Carr. Amari Cooper, despite the odd snaps when he looks like a rookie, is even-money to be a legit playmaker in his first season.
After that, it’s a jumble. Rod Streater is out with an illness the club has yet to diagnose. Andre Holmes has had his moments, but so has 6-foot-5 Kris Durham, third-year player Brice Butler and Kenbrell Thompkins. Plus anyone who can excel on special teams.
Many felt it was a good bet Murray would be the lead back and it doesn't seem like Richardson, or anyone else, will pass him. Helu appears like he'll get his normal third-down role like he had with the Redskins. Crabtree has had a good camp to this point and looks like a nice signing. Meanwhile Cooper seems to be up and down.
The Redskins’ ranked 19th in the NFL in yards gained last year and their 4.2 yards per carry ranked 15th. That’s not good enough for a team that is as unsettled as the Redskins are at quarterback. Whether it’s Robert Griffin III behind center or Kirk Cousins or Colt McCoy, the QB will benefit greatly from a running game that is better than something right around the league average.
So there will be changes in way they do things. One is a more power-oriented ground game. The other may be some form of running back by committee.
“The running game nowadays, you need to have a couple of guys that can tote it,” Jay Gruden told Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro on ESPN 980 earlier this week. “Sixteen games is a long time, that’s a lot of games, a lot of carries, that’s a lot of hits on these running backs.”
Gruden said that he would like to split up the carries more than he did last year, when he went with what was mostly a one-back attack. Alfred Morris had 265 rushing attempts. The other tailbacks on the roster, Roy Helu, Silas Redd, and Chris Thompson, combined for 59 rushing attempts. That is 82 percent of the carries for Morris, 18 percent for the rest.
Most backs come into the NFL with some innate ability to run the football. But it’s learning to do the other necessary, less glamorous work that separates an NFL running back from a guy who can find a hole and pick up some yards.
The story went on to say in his three years as the offensive coordinator with the Bengals, Gruden spread the workload in different ways in different seasons. In 2012 he had BenJarvus Green-Ellis take 80 percent of the tailback rushing attempts. But in 2011 it was a 70-30 split between Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott. And in 2013 Cincinnati drafted Giovani Bernard and gave him 170 carries to 220 for Green-Ellis (that’s a 56-44 split in percentage terms). The story also added the roster can often dictate who gets the carries, and Gruden, in the interview, added that Morris would get the bulk of carries with Matt Jones, Chris Thompson and Silas Redd getting chances to get the carries Morris won't get. However, the story continued to say if Gruden can find another running back or two, it could be more of a running back by committee approach than we have seen with this team in the past.
Sunday, July 5, 2015, 9:00pm
There’s no clearer sign that running back Trent Richardson’s career has not gone as planned than the fact that he’s starting his fourth NFL season on his third team after being the third overall pick by the Browns in the 2012 draft.
If there’s an optimistic spin to put on Richardson signing with the Raiders after an ineffective pair of years in Indianapolis following a trade with Cleveland for a first-round pick, it’s that Richardson will get a fresh start with a new coaching staff. While discussing all of the team’s options at running back, offensive line coach Mike Tice said that the Alabama product has made a good early impression in Oakland.
“Each one has their own style,” Tice said on Sirius XM NFL Radio, via the Raiders website. “I like the [Latavius] Murray kid. He really came on in that veteran mini-camp. He got his legs under him and showed some quickness, some good finish. I thought the young man out of Alabama came on. He lost some weight, his quickness came around.”
Thanks to Murray, Richardson is way down our RB list at 97. Richardson hasn’t gotten high marks on quickness in his first two stops in the NFL, making Tice’s observation a step in the right direction for a player who hasn’t taken enough of them in the last three years, the story said. The Raiders also have Roy Helu, so Richardson will have to battle for playing time.
Sunday, July 5, 2015, 10:12am
Keim: As of now I'd lean toward Alfred Morris being the starter. That's because I haven't seen any proof that Matt Jones will develop into that guy. I also believe Morris will remain productive. After talking to people in the NFL, it's not as if everyone loved Jones and some rated him well below the third round. His game action from Florida was mixed, though I do think he can be a bigger threat on third down than he was at Florida. Jones has the size coaches love and he's shifty so he has a chance. But before I start thinking about discarding Morris I want to see what Jones can do.
Morris ranks 15th on our RB list and continues to be a nice RB2 option for fantasy owners. He continues to be limited by his use in the passing game. Even with Roy Helu out of the picture, we figure on Jones getting more receptions than Morris.
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