May 26, 2015; Alameda, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray (28) carries the ball at organized team activities at the Raiders practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Why he is under pressure: Murray was a player who fans were calling out for during much of 2014 as he was buried behind aging veterans at the running back position before finally getting his opportunity in the second half of the season, exploding during the Raiders first win of the year on Thursday Night Football with two of Oakland’s longest touchdown plays of the year. Murray then missed time for a concussion before coming back and turning into a workhorse at the position, helping the team earn wins over San Francisco as well as Buffalo at the Coliseum before the end of the year. Building himself considerable hype as the future at running back despite just a handful of appearances to date due to either injury or being kept on the bench while Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew were given their opportunities to start the season based on seniority.
With that hype of being a potential gamebreaker who can be the workhorse comes the pressure for Murray to piece together his highlight reel performances last season on a week to week basis. Something that might be a challenge for Murray, who has been injured during both of his two seasons with the Raiders after spending all of 2013 on the IR. Looked at as a player who could become a superstar at a position where players flash promise before crashing to earth just as quick, the sky high expectations for Murray are concerning and will place a considerable amount of pressure on the likely top running back on the depth chart entering the start of the 2015 season.
Can he break the pressure: At the risk of being unpopular amongst the Raider Nation, I still feel that Murray needs to show a bit more before getting the type of expectations that some fans have set out for him. Yes, he did dominate against the Chiefs, but he was also concussed in the same game on a play that showed just how quickly a season can change for a running back. Even one of the greatest running backs of all-time in Bo Jackson famously had his career cut short on one play against the Bengals when he needed a hip replacement on a routine tackle.
The running back business is a tough one, and for a young running back who has a long injury history (missing almost as much time as ‘bust’ DJ Hayden) there is a legitimate worry that Murray’ durability won’t be there enough for him to be a workhorse.
Other than durability issues, Murray has the speed and the athletic ability to chew up yards as his talent was evident when he was on the field last year. With a new offensive line coach in Mike Tice and a run-first OC in Bill Musgrave the pieces are in place for Murray to have the 1000+ yard season that he needs to build on his breakout second half, but the durability questions will remain in the face of lofty expectations amongst a fanbase that already views him as a can’t miss talent. Like most of the players on this list, Murray is likely on his way to a productive season, but the pressure comes from the weight of expectations that may be just set a bit too high for him going into the season. We will see if Murray and the rest of the Raiders under pressure to perform this season can have big years as camp opens, the road to 2015 just days away from being officially here.