Oakland Raiders Make Run Game a Priority in Free Agency


Nov 30, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs center Rodney Hudson (61) before the start of the game against the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was fun….The 2015 Free Agency shot out with a bang on Tuesday. Between confirmed signings and some big time trades, the excitement for NFL football is at an all time high.

Back in Oakland however, most Raiders fans would agree…This 2015 Free Agency season shot out with a whimper. The Oakland Raiders were far from the most news-worthy team, despite some big money to spend and speculation.

What Reggie McKenzie and the Raiders did show, was a plan to improve upon the worst rushing attack in the league last year. Ranked dead last, the Raiders running game provided no help for their young rookie QB Derek Carr. The Raiders did not have a 100 yard rusher until week 12, with their 3rd string RB Latavius Murray having a breakout game, including a 90 yard run.

News broke that the Raiders would be securing the top center in FA by signing Rodney Hudson from the Chiefs. According to ESPN, Hudson’s contract is a reported 5 year 44.5 million dollar deal, which would make him one of the highest paid at his position.

"Hudson, 25, was graded by Pro Football Focus as best among Chiefs offensive linemen in 2014 and was PFF’s third-rated center in the league. ESPN"

Hudson is an obvious upgrade over the fan favorite Stephen Wisniewski, who many football fans would agree was a bit overrated. One of Hudson major strengths is getting the second level in the run game. The ability to create holes then press up and occupy linebackers is a big part of having an efficient run game. This was one of the Raider offensive lines biggest weaknesses last year, as linebackers were flying free and attacking the line of scrimmage.

In addition to Hudson, the Raiders also brought in TE Lee Smith from Buffalo and the recently signed RB Roy Helu from Washington.

Smith is strictly a blocking tight end who can complement talented receiving tight end Mychal Rivera. Once again the tight end’s last year including Rivera, struggled in the run game. Smith is a solid player who can immediately help the Raiders improve.

Roy Helu is an underrated running back from the Redskins. Helu is a shifty aggressive runner who excels catching the football out of the backfield. Helu once again is a complementary player to emerging Latavius Murray, or even possibly DeMarco Murray who has been rumored to the Raiders. Helu could be a real steal for Reggie and Co, as I feel he was under utilized in DC. Helu will definitely be a great asset for Derek Carr on third downs.

Sep 7, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Washington Redskins running back Roy Helu (29) hurdles over Houston Texans free safety Kendrick Lewis (21) during the first half at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Theses moves may seem minor and not very exciting, but they give clues into what Reggie and the Raiders are prioritizing this off season. The offensive line was atrocious last year. Even in pass protection which was overrated in my opinion, more a product of Carr’s quick release and intelligence then solid play, this line had to be improved.

With improved play at center and solid play from left tackle Donald Penn, the continued improvement from Gabe Jackson and Austin Howard being move to his natural spot at right tackle, this Oakland Raiders offensive line has an opportunity to be one of the most improved next year.

Improved tight end and running back play confirm the Raiders priority to be a dynamic run team, which bodes well for its two young offensive stars Latavius Murray and Derek Carr.