Oakland Raiders depth chart projections: Offense

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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

Running Backs (HB/FB)

The running backs group has undergone a massive change since 2014, when the Raiders had one of the worst rushing seasons in league history. Last year, the Raiders brought in long-time Jacksonville, UCLA and Concord-De La Salle great Maurice Jones-Drew to compliment former first-round pick Darren McFadden. Jones-Drew missed time with injury and finished with 43 carries for 96 yards – a 2.2 yard per carry average. McFadden fared little better, managing 534 yards on 155 carries and only two touchdowns through 12 starts.

Late in the year, the Raiders went to second-year man Latavius Murray, a promising young back who had been taken late in the 2013 draft but missed the 2013 season with an injury. Murray exploded in the teams’ first win over Kansas City, gaining 112 yards and scoring 2 touchdowns – including a 90 yard run that was the Raiders’ longest touchdown run since Bo Jackson. Murray would finish the season as the Raiders’ starting running back and would carry the ball 23 times in each of the Raiders two other wins on the year. He finished the year with 82 carries for 424 yards.

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  • The Raiders cut ties with both Jones-Drew and McFadden this offseason and brought in free agent backs Trent Richardson and Roy Helu. Richardson, a former Alabama great and 3rd overall pick of the 2012 draft, has been a disappointment in the NFL so far, averaging 3.3 yards per carry for Cleveland and Indianapolis and scoring only 19 total touchdowns over three NFL seasons. Helu, a Bay Area native, spent the last four years in Washington, mostly used as a change of pace and receiving back. He has managed a 4.4 yard rushing average, as well as 129 career receptions and 2,284 career yards from scrimmage.

    The fullback position is a major question mark for the Raiders going into 2015. The position has been capably manned by three-time Pro Bowler Marcel Reece since the 2010 season, with Jamize Olawale behind him full-time for the past two seasons. Reece, a former college wideout, has been consistently one of the best receiving fullbacks in the league throughout his career, though his production peaked in 2012. He caught 37 passes last year, including a single touchdown. Reece has also been used as a runner at halfback at times in the past, with some success – he posted a 100 yard rushing game once, was instrumental on a key late drive against the Chiefs last year, and has a 4.7 yard per carry average for his career on 173 carries. Olawale meanwhile is a more traditional blocking back, though he has been quite efficient on rare opportunities with the ball: last year he was targeted on six passes and caught five, two for touchdowns.

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  • But Bill Musgrave’s offense, which is very similar to Norv Turner’s offense, doesn’t use a traditional fullback most of the time, instead using an “H-back” or “F-back,” or what some might call a “move” tight end or a “wing” back. This may mean Jamize Olawale is out of a job, since he is more of a traditional blocking fullback, and the new offense is suited more toward Marcel Reece’s skill-set, where he would essentially be used as an extra tight end. But Reece can also be used as a capable 3rd-down back, with his blocking and receiving skill set.

    The Raiders also have a few other contenders in the running back stable. George Atkinson III, son of Raider legend George Atkinson II, is a capable return man with good size and speed who saw the field a few times last year but spent most of 2014 on the Raider practice squad. Speed man Taiwan Jones has been re-assigned as a running back, and was re-signed prior to last season to be a force as a gunner on special teams but missed most of 2014 with an injury. Michael Dyer, who in 2010 and 2011 put up over 2300 yards rushing and 15 TDs for Auburn, came to the Raiders as an undrafted rookie free agent after two underwhelming years at Louisville.

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  • Running backs are a position group where you want to have depth but also diversity of skills, since teams generally rotate their backs and have specific play packages or roles for each running back and fullback on the roster. Trent Richardson, for instance, may not be who the Browns thought he was as a runner, but he is a capable receiver and a very solid pass blocking back, and may be the right guy for the 3rd down role. Roy Helu is also a good receiving back and change of pace back who can spell Latavius Murray, if indeed Murray is the feature back. George Atkinson III and Taiwan Jones have value on special teams.

    The Raiders cannot keep everybody, but look for five players to make the final 53-man roster from this group: four halfbacks and a single fullback.

    Projected Depth Chart

    Halfback/Running Back:

    1. Latavius Murray

    2. Roy Helu

    3. Trent Richardson

    4. Taiwan Jones


    1. Marcel Reece

    PRACTICE SQUAD: George Atkinson III

    RELEASED: Jamize Olawale, Michael Dyer

    Next: Depth Chart Projection: TE's