Oakland Raiders Free Agency: Examining the Roster, One Week Later

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Dec 28, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Trent Richardson (34) carries the ball against the Tennessee Titans during the first half at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

2. Running Backs

Players lost or released: Darren McFadden, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Kory Sheets

Players signed: Roy Helu and Trent Richardson

Incumbents: Latavius Murray, George Atkinson III, Marcel Reece and Jamize Olawale

Probable Starter: Latavius Murray

The running back positions – fullback and halfback/tailback – are not as clearly delineated as the quarterback position. For one thing, there have been reports that Bill Musgrave does not intend to use a fullback in 2015, which throws the role of both Marcel Reece and Jamize Olawale into question. Marcel Reece is one of football’s most versatile fullbacks, and has the receiving and route-running ability to be used as an H-back or tight end, with proven ability to also be a big ball-carrier – he has a 4.6 yard per carry career rushing average. Olawale may not make it out of training camp, but he has shown ability to be a solid lead blocker and has some skill set catching the ball out of the backfield for the Raiders, along with a his ability as a personal protector and cover man on the punt team.

Latavius Murray, in limited action last season, was incredibly productive (5.2 yards per attempt), and it is likely he will be the bell-cow tailback, the guy who carries the ball 15-20 times per game between the tackles. He is a prototypical Bill Musgrave back at 6’3″ and 225 with elite breakaway speed, but he has a limited body of work and has been somewhat injury prone in his short career.

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The Trent Richardson comps for Najee Harris aren't totally unwarranted
The Trent Richardson comps for Najee Harris aren't totally unwarranted /

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  • Roy Helu is a typical utility back who was productive as a change-of-pace and third-down back for Washington over the past four seasons. Helu is a sturdy back who has shown the ability to be a productive runner (a 4.4 yard per carry career average, carried the ball 151 times in 2011) as well as a dangerous receiving back (129 career receptions). Trent Richardson, a former #3 overall pick, is a compact back with great speed and power who has not managed to become successful at the NFL level and struggles with his vision and patience as a runner. While the signing was big news today, don’t expect Richardson – who is making just $3.9M over two years – to become the Raider feature back in 2015.

    The Raiders are also still carrying 2014 undrafted free agent George Atkinson III, son of Raider legend George Atkinson II, on the roster as well. Atkinson, a quality player but never a feature runner at Notre Dame, spent most of last year on the practice squad before being activated as a kick returner for the last five games. He returned seven kicks. The Raiders may be set with a 1-2-3 with Murray, Helu and Richardson but look for Atkinson to compete throughout the offseason and in training camp for a spot on the roster.

    With Richardson’s signing, it’s unlikely we’ll see Marcel Reece used heavily as a running back this year, though you never know. With Bill Musgrave potentially moving toward a scheme that uses an H-back rather than a traditional fullback, look for Reece to play that role more heavily, with some stints as a single back or traditional fullback in tendency-breaking packages.

    Next: Raiders Roster Breakdown: Wide Receiver