DEANDRE WASHINGTON & JALEN RICHARD
The Raiders struggles in the running game last season, particularly in the second half of the season when playcalling became predictable and Latavius Murray hit a bit of a wall, are well documented and a back who could spell Murray for times in the running and passing game was one of the biggest offseason needs.
McKenzie waited and plucked small but powerful DeAndre Washington from Texas Tech in the 5th round. His size (5’8, 208 pds) and natural quickness make him an obvious choice to catch passes from the backfield – but this is no fey flower. Washington has shown power and burst throughout camp, both McKenzie when he drafted him and coach Jack Del Rio in subsequent practices have said that Washington possesses the strength and tools to be an every-down back, and in a recent practice he was more than holding his own in pass protection drills. This kid could be the real deal.
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Washington is also penciled in as the second kick returner and punt returner, so clearly the team likes his speed and elusiveness and want to see more from him. Returner has been a position of need for years.
You could write almost verbatim statements about undrafted FA Jalen Richard out of Southern Mississippi. Richard and Washington are almost identical in size and speed, yet despite a successful career with the Golden Eagles, Richard went undrafted.
It’s hard to see why. Richard has shown as much speed and burst as Washington, with exceptional decision making ability to go along with a shifty elusiveness that invokes Barry Sanders. That’s heady stuff for a UDFA trying to make a team, but the kid is fun to watch, makes people miss, and plays with a chip on his shoulder that’s obvious in his effort. I’d expect a lot of touches and some big things from him on Friday. Based on the depth chart, Richard will also get a chance to return some kicks.
Do the Raiders need two players that are somewhat carbon copies of each other? Maybe not, but both have played so well thus far, it’d be tough to leave either off.
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