Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos: Players to Watch

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Dec 6, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Jamize Olawale (49) carries the ball against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second quarter at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Jamize Olawale

Before the 2015 season, Raiders fullback Jamize Olawale saw a majority of his snaps come on special teams, as he garnered just 17 touches in his first two years in Oakland. Now, with little running back depth to turn to, Olawale has benefited from an increased workload within Oakland’s offense, and as a result, has earned an extended role on this team.

According to Raiders.com, Olawale signed a three-year contract extension with the Raiders on Tuesday. In 2015, he has earned 32 touches for 180 yards and a touchdown.

At 6’1”, 240 pounds, Olawale fits the mold of a powerhouse back that can churn out yards in between the tackles, but he also is capable of making elusive plays on the outside and in the open field. As a former wide receiver at North Texas, Olawale is also a proven pass-catcher out of the backfield or even when split out into the slot.

Head coach Jack Del Rio touched on Olawale’s versatility in a press conference held after he had signed the extension.

“He’s done a great job of coming in every day and working hard at his role,” Del Rio, via Bill Williamson of ESPN.com. “He’s a guy that can play a lot of different roles. He’s got special-teams value. He’s got value as a blocker and he can also catch the ball out of the backfield or carry the ball.”

Given the recent praise surrounding Olawale, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave will likely place an emphasis on getting him even more involved in the offense against Denver. Though he has had a career high in touches this season, Olawale is still averaging fewer than three carries a game.

Against a top-five run defense like Denver, Olawale should see a heavy amount of touches out of the backfield in order to keep lead back Latavius Murray fresh on the early downs. Olawale’s powerful running style is also a good change of pace to Murray’s speedy, upright style, which in turn, could wear down the defense enough for Murray to break off a big run later in the game.

Olawale’s receiving ability also forces Denver’s defense into matchups they may not like, similarly to when Oakland lines up Marcel Reece at receiver. Though he likely won’t get a great deal of targets, Olawale still forces Denver to sometimes put guys they don’t want out of the box outside near the sideline, which could have both a positive effect on the run game and their passing attack.

Next: Players to Watch: Khalil Mack