How New Oakland Raiders Coaching Staff May Shake Up the Running Game

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Dec 21, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Andre Holmes (18) reacts after running back Darren McFadden (20) ran for a first down against the Buffalo Bills in the fourth quarter at Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Bills 26-24. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Running backs Darren McFadden, Kory Sheets, and Jamize Olawale are all set to become free agents in 2015. McFadden, a former first round pick, had a career marked by periods of absolute explosiveness and excitement followed by long stretches of missed time due to injury. McFadden, who at his best was a big, fast, hard-nosed runner, peaked in 2010 and 2011 in Hue Jackson’s power offense, which raises some hope that he could have a renaissance under a Bill Musgrave and Mike Tice blocking scheme.

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  • Still, he has averaged about 3.3 yards per carry for the past three seasons, and 2014 was the first year of his entire career in which he was available for a full 16 games. McFadden does have some use as a 3rd down back, both as a pass-blocker and receiver, but there may not be room for him on the roster anymore.  His one year “prove it” deal for 2014 may have been his last as a Raider.

    Kory Sheets was a superstar in the CFL who had 197 rushing yards in the 2013 Grey Cup final to lead himself to Oakland after a much publicized attempt at a 2,000 yard season in the Canadian league that fell short due to injury as well as rest for a dominant playoff run. As well documented, Sheets signed with the Raiders before the 2014 season hoping to catch on in the NFL one last time, after failed stops with the 49ers, Dolphins and Panthers.

    After looking promising in training camp and preseason action in glimpses, a season-ending injury in the third preseason game on a first down run ended his 2014, and probably ended his hopes at ever making it big in the NFL. Sheets will turn 30 in March having recorded one carry for 5 yards in his entire NFL career, something that surely will be a disappointment for the successful NCAA and CFL rusher. It’s doubtful he re-signs with the Raiders, and at 30 coming off an Achilles injury that has serious implications there is a good chance that he would never be the same player who dominated in Canada if he did return.

    Jamize Olawale has spent the past three seasons with Oakland, mostly used as a backup fullback behind the versatile Marcel Reece, as well as a special teams contributor. Olawale, who is slightly smaller and not quite as athletic as Reece, has caught 12 career passes, including two touchdowns in 2014. He also has five career carries for six yards. In Musgrave’s offense, he will have value as a traditional lead-blocking fullback, so look for the Raiders to possibly retain Olawale’s services for another couple of years.

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