Why Latavius Murray is the Raiders Week 3 key to victory


Sep 20, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray (28) is defended by Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith (22) in the first quarter as at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Although sophomore quarterback Derek Carr was the clear focal point of their offensive attack in their first win of the season last week against the Baltimore Ravens, it’s time for offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to hand the keys to Oakland’s offense over to his powerful, workhorse running back Latavius Murray.

Murray saw just 18 touches (15 carries and three receptions) in their Week 2 matchup against the Ravens, in which he earned 87 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. On the season Murray has 26 carries for 109 yards and a touchdown, while he also has brought in 10 receptions for 58 yards. Given his overall production, Murray has performed well with the touches he has been given, as he is averaging 4.6 yards every time he touches the football.

Though Murray would welcome the idea of being a larger part of the offense, he still believes that it’s more important for him to focus on making each carry count rather than taking on a higher workload.

“You never know when it will happen, but I would obviously love the ball in my hands more, as any offensive player would,” Murray said, via Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com. “My main focus is being productive with the touches I’m given. I want to break some long ones and create some explosive plays. You’re not going to have that every time, but you have to keep working on them.”

A significant factor in why Murray hasn’t been as involved as some might people have expected is the two teams Oakland was pitted against in the first two weeks. Cincinnati’s explosive offense took a tremendous lead before Oakland could even consider getting anything on the ground, and the Raiders went into their Week 2 matchup knowing  Baltimore had an above average run defense. Though Murray is capable of making plays against almost any defense, it is still understandable that Musgrave tailored his offense around Carr in the first two weeks.

Heading into Oakland’s Week 3 contest against the Cleveland Browns, Musgrave told the media in a press conference that he wants more touches for everybody, but he especially wants to get both the tight ends and Murray more involved in the offense.

According to NFL.com, the Browns run defense is ranked dead last after their first two performances. Cleveland is allowing 4.8 yards per carry, while also allowing an average of 160 rushing yards per game.

Cleveland’s defensive line is not getting enough penetration at the point of attack, while the linebackers behind them are opening up cutback lanes when they are caught over-pursuing on stretched out zone runs. While inside linebacker Karlos Dansby has performed admirably, interior defensive linemen Danny Shelton and Desmond Bryant have been inconsistent and are rarely seen disrupting a run play in the backfield.

Another player responsible for the Browns’ poor run defense is defensive end Armonty Bryant, as he has been bullied into allowing running backs to get outside the tackle box and make big gains. Against Tennessee, Bryant was often taken out of the play by tight end Anthony Fasano.

There are areas of the Browns run defense that looked efficient, as their physical secondary swarms to the football quite well, the holes within their defense are still significant enough for the Raiders to take advantage of with Murray.

As for some specifics on how Oakland can efficiently get Murray going on the ground, the Raiders offensive line must work on getting in front of the Browns defensive line within their zone scheme. With Cleveland’s linebackers flying over to the play side, Oakland can open up big cut-back lanes if the back side of their offensive line can effectively force their man down the line of scrimmage.

Also expect Oakland to run a lot of their zone-schemes from under center, as it will allow more time for the Browns’ linebackers to follow their guards play-side, and as a result, open up running lanes on the back side of the play.

Murray should earn 20+ carries against the Browns on Sunday, for it simply makes too much sense for Musgrave to not take advantage of the Browns porous run defense. The heightened production on the ground should also allow the Raiders to successfully run the play-action pass, which will also serve as a great way for Musgrave to meet his goal of getting the tight ends more involved.

Murray should also be a significant part of Oakland’s passing game. While Murray has proven that he can make plays coming out of the backfield, he is also a viable option as an added player in pass protection. Given his ability to positively affect the passing game, Murray will likely remain on the field for a lot of the game.

The game plan for Oakland is simple. Exploit Cleveland’s poor run defense with one of the more talented backs Oakland has had in their backfield in quite some time, and in turn, Oakland’s offense should see a much smoother passing attack and find themselves converting manageable third downs. If Musgrave can commit to substantial workload for Murray, expect Oakland to come out of Sunday’s game with their second victory of the season.

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