Oakland Raiders Sending Message to RB Latavius Murray


August 15, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray (28) runs the football during the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at O.co Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Lions 27-26. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Remember Latavius Murray?

In what seems likes ages ago, this young talented runner breathed life into a dead Raiders running game last year. Forecasted as the future at running back, Murray may now be fighting for a starting spot in 2015…..

A Florida boy who ended up playing high school ball in a small town in upstate New York, Latavius Murray is used to being overlooked. After amassing an impressive high school career in Onondaga, NY, just outside of Syracuse, Murray declined offers from Boston College, Maryland, and Syracuse for a chance to get back in the Florida sun deciding on the University of Central Florida.

Yet, in a UCF offense designed and powered by its strong running game with current Jaguar Storm Johnson and Murray in the backfield, it was their quarterback who NFL teams were excited about. Quarterback Blake Bortles, the “Big Ben” clone was the 3rd pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Storm Johnson was pick #222 in the 7th round that same year and Murray of course going a year earlier in the 6th round, at pick #181.

After what amounts to a red shirt rookie year in 2013, Latavius Murray was stuck behind two veterans in 2014. As we all watched the Raiders struggle in part to a historically bad running game, Murray offered a ray of hope with an explosive and productive running style in the last quarter of the season.

Fast forward to the 2015 off-season and one thing has become very apparent in the Raiders organization. The Raiders are not sold on Murray.

Recent news links the Raiders to Adrian Peterson. The current Viking who was reinstated recently by the NFL after child abuse charges from last year, Peterson is arguably the greatest running back of this generation. Peterson would offer immediate legitimacy to the Raiders organization. Reports have also indicated the Vikings would be asking for a first round pick in exchange for Peterson. My first thought is the Raiders and GM Reggie McKenzie would be a long shot at acquiring the running back at that price. McKenzie is not a fan of giving up picks and giving up a first rounder this year would be career suicide.

The Raiders were apparently also very interested in signing DeMarco Murray in free agency, who eventually signed with the Eagles. Murray was the rushing champ from last year, behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. A Murray and Murray combination sounds great on paper, but would have probably meant a much lesser role for Latavius.

Speaking of free agency, the Raiders did sign two very interesting running backs in Roy Helu and former 1st round pick Trent Richardson. The Helu signing is one I liked right away. He is the perfect complimentary back, who is a third down specialist and great at catching the ball out of the backfield. Trent Richardson is a low risk high reward signing, that has become a staple of the McKenzie tenure. All the talent in the world, but has been a huge disappointment for two organizations in the NFL. Richardson offers the most competition to Murray on the current roster, solely due to his immense natural ability.

With the NFL Draft soon approaching Murray may find even more competition in the backfield. This a deep draft at running back, and a young player in the mid to late rounds could be an excellent addition.

So what does this all mean? Well in an interview with Head Coach Jack Del Rio, he hinted at the fact that Murray still has much to improve on to be a starting caliber running back. Jack was offering no guarantees, and like many coaches believes in the value of competition. Murray despite his talent and small sampling of greatness in 2014 will still have to earn the job in 2015.

"“Del Rio said Murray needs to work on his football awareness and football IQ to enhance his tremendous skills.” Bill Williamson ESPN"

Murray despite his talent, may be the type of player who needs that extra motivation to be great. Competition in the form of rumours of being replaced, or even bringing in a former first round pick who is desperate to stay in the league. Could these all be ploys in order to get the most out of their young running back? Hard to tell as an outsider, but hard for me to believe this Raider organization is already ready to move on from Latavius Murray.

Murray should get every chance to be the Raiders #1 back in 2015. I feel the Raiders coaching staff and organization are in a very crafty way sending a strong message to their young back. A smart move that could turn Latavius Murray into another late round success story for the Raiders and the NFL.

With a continue influx of talent to this roster and a new coaching staff, the Raiders have little time to waste on players with great talent but limited work ethic or focus. The Raiders want to see improvement from Murray and he must show and prove. If not he could end up as another flash in the pan player, more known for a Miley Cyrus pic than his play on the football field.