Can Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray make the next step in 2016?
Latavius Murray made his long awaited arrival as a starter in the Raiders backfield in 2015. At 6’3” 230 lbs, Murray has drawn comparisons to other big backs like Adrian Peterson and Matt Forte.
Murray burst onto the national scene in 2014. Remember that painful season? I know, I know. I hate opening ripping open scabs like this. But just look at where the Raiders were 2 years ago. Matt Schaub (vomits) was acquired from the Texans that off-season, but entered camp with a dead arm and was eventually dethroned by Derek Carr. Dennis Allen was fired that season after the team had started 0-4. Murray had been battling some injuries, but it was common knowledge that he would become the back of the future.
And he showed why in week 14 with one run:
90 yards to the house. What a beautiful run. After cutting on a dime to the left side, Murray showcased his 4.4 speed, hitting another gear before leaving the Kansas City Chiefs defense in the dust. Murray showcased to a nationally televised audience that although the Raiders had many holes and continuing a painful rebuild process, they had at least one component to future success.
We Raiders fans didn’t have much to cheer for at all that season. The Raiders entered this game 0-11 and I really don’t remember cheering at all up to this point. No seriously. It was that miserable. This run gave Raiders fans a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel.
The Raiders would go on to win 3 of the last 4 games.
Murray finally had the chance to showcase his abilities as a starter last season. It was an up and down season to say the least. Kind of like moving in with a significant other. The good times are really fun – you enjoy the moments and have the highest of hopes for the future. But other times you’re just annoyed at the mere sight of them, a la when Murray lost a fumble and dropped multiple key passes in a Week 9 loss at Pittsburgh.
The stats show Murray had a decent year in 2015. He rushed for over 1,000 yards and scored 6 touchdowns. He had more rushing yards than any Raider since 2005. Murray was also 2nd in the AFC in rushing.
But for some reason it didn’t really feel like Murray had that strong of a season. Maybe that can be blamed on the fact that Murray only averaged 4 yards per carry. Maybe it’s because he only rushed for over 100 yards two times all season. Maybe it’s because as games wore on, Oakland would run the ball less.
That factor may have had more to do with play calling than general fatigue, but the way the NFL’s run game is headed, two trustworthy backs is better than having one feature back, and Oakland did not have a reliable spell back last season.
The Raiders lacked a 2nd back so badly last season that Derek Carr was actually 2nd on the team in rush yards and attempts. Derek Carr. The Quarterback. 2nd in rushing. The struggle was definitely real, but the addition of rookie Deandre Washington should help. Hopefully the addition of Washington will help keep Murray fresh throughout games so Carr isn’t flinging it all over the field late in games.
The Raiders have finally arrived. The Raiders are many analysts and fans sexy pick to make the playoffs, and Murray is part of the reason many expect that. With improvements to the offensive line, the addition of a spell back, and generally improvement of skill players around Murray, look for the fourth-year back out of Central Florida to have a breakout season this coming year.