Oakland Raiders Vs. Jets Preview: Keys to the Game
Oct 25, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray (28) runs the ball past San Diego Chargers inside linebacker Denzel Perryman (52) at Qualcomm Stadium. Oakland won 37-29. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
3. Murray Needs 15
Okay so last week I said Murray needed to get 20 carries, but he only had 15 and the Raiders offense did whatever the hell it wanted to the Chargers. So I will modify my Latavius Murray weekly key to the game number: Latavius Murray needs to carry the ball a minimum of 15 times this week against the tough Jets defense.
Latavius Murray has so far in his career had 15 or more carries in a game six times, and the Raiders are 5-1 in those matchups (the sole loss was to the Bears earlier this season). While a “pitch count” for running back carries is almost always arbitrary and not as important as balanced play calling and smart situational football, it’s a good rule of thumb to have your feature back carry the ball on a good percentage of your offensive plays.
The Raiders offense has averaged about 62 plays per game this season, and has averaged 23 run plays per game. Murray has carried the ball an average of 15.8 times per game, and reached at least 15 carries in all three Raider victories. When he is allowed to develop that rhythm over the course of a game, the Raider run game becomes effective, and along with it the deadly play-action passing game. In all three Raider wins this year, Murray averaged at least 4.33 yards per carry, and in two of those wins his average was over 5 YPC.
When he’s in rhythm and on pace for 15 or more carries, the Raider play-action game becomes dangerous, along with a lot of other things the Raiders want to do through the air. This was most visible last week against San Diego, when Derek Carr was 7 of 10 for 120 yards and two scores off the fake.
Both scores came using the same exact play: Carr quickly fakes to Murray out of the shotgun while Gabe Jackson pulls across the formation, then hits a wide receiver on the other side of the formation on a screen pass. The play worked both times because the Chargers, who had seen Murray run out of that formation multiple times, all bit on the run action, leaving the wideout in space.
Murray is the most consistent and dangerous running threat on the Raiders right now with his size, speed and power. When he’s in the game and is running well, the Raiders are able to stay ahead of the chains and move the ball, and are also able to set up play action and score with ease. He needs to get the ball and keep getting it to set the rest of this offense up.
Next: Keys to the Game: Get the Crowd Involved