Why the Oakland Raiders need to give Jamize Olawale more carries


With a struggling running game, the Oakland Raiders need to give Jamize Olawale an increased role in the rushing attack.

The Oakland Raiders rushing attack is a constant disappointment week after week.

Though lead back Latavius Murray has earned the fourth-most rushing yards in the NFL through Week 13, the Raiders’ offense as a whole still ranks among the bottom ten in rushing yards per game, via NFL.com. Given the considerable difference between the two statistics, Oakland’s inability to find a reliable, productive back behind Murray has taken a negative toll on their offense.

Head coach Jack Del Rio and company made an effort over the offseason to pick up potential backup running backs with free agent additions Trent Richardson and Roy Helu Jr., but neither seem to have panned out this season. The Silver and Black parted ways with Richardson before the season and Helu Jr. has had just 34 yards on 14 carries on the year.

Other options like fullback Marcel Reece and special teams ace Taiwan Jones have had their opportunities in the backfield, but neither has seemed to earn a firm grip on the No. 2 spot behind Murray. Jones’ ball security issues overshadow the small amount of spark he’s shown at times, while Reece has proven incapable of reading his blockers behind the line of scrimmage and hitting the correct hole.

With nowhere else to really look, the Raiders turned to backup fullback Jamize Olawale to serve as a change-of-pace back behind Murray, and even on a limited basis, the move has paid off. In 10 games, Olawale has carried the ball 24 times for 110 yards and a touchdown, via ESPN.com.

The third-year back out of North Texas uses a tough, powerful running style to carry defenders in short yardage situations and break through weak arm tackles. Olawale has also proven capable of reading the defense effectively and making a decisive cut towards the backside in order to slice up the defense for a significant gain.

Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave touched on the similarities between Reece and Olawale earlier this season. “He’s very similar to Marcel,” Musgrave said, via Bill Williamson of ESPN.com. “(He can) Catch the ball out of the back field, can be a lead blocker and also ball carrier.” With that kind of praise, Olawale’s versatility should have already led to him having an even further increased role in Oakland’s offense, but for some reason, he is still averaging fewer than three carries per game. In the Raiders’ most recent performance, Olawale had just two carries for 16 yards.

Though Oakland’s coaching staff believes Murray is capable of taking on an Adrian Peterson-type role, it’s about time they drop the experiment and embrace the fact that he isn’t capable of taking over the backfield with 25-30 carries. While he has the size to absorb constant hits up the middle, Murray’s big play running style reaches its maximum potential when kept fresh between carries.

If Olawale could remain productive while taking the beating on the shorter down and distances, Murray will more often have fresh legs to explode through open holes for the long gains he’s accustomed to earning. In addition to forcing Murray out of his current bell-cow role, Olawale is a significant upgrade as a short-yardage back in comparison to Reece. Though Reece looks like he’s built to earn those tough yards at 6’1”, 250 pounds, Olawale excels when running in between the tackles, as he often pushes the pile for unexpected yards down the stretch.

Allowing Olawale to take part in a two-headed committee in the backfield would force defenses to account for two different running styles and keep Murray fresh deep into the fourth quarter of games. Even if Olawale can’t produce in an extended role, getting a full understanding of what they have in the backfield will help them better prepare a game plan to improve their roster in the offseason.