George Atkinson III and Taiwan Jones
The Raiders backup running back battle has been fun to watch, with DeAndre Washington holding a lead over Jalen Richard at the moment due to some big plays.
Richard hasn’t had as many opportunities after missing the first two preseason games with a knee injury, but he’s played well when he’s gotten the chance, including a nice kick return against the Titans last Thursday.
Atkinson had a great game to open the preseason against Arizona, but hasn’t been able to replicate that magic in limited reps since Richard returned, and struggled against the Packers in Week 2. He did bounce back for a nice 4 carry, 35 yd (8.8 avg) game against the Titans, but that was late against third and fourth string players.
Atkinson does have the legacy factor, as well as his fight through an uphill battle from the practice squad the past two seasons to this chance here. However, he doesn’t have the versatility Jones offers.
Jones is a special teams dynamo but has been phased out of the running game and possibly even the kick return game as he’s watched Holton, Washington and even Richard surpass him in opportunity and production. He’s returned only one kick this preseason, not a good sign for a player who makes his roster bones on special teams. He remains, however, one of the best return gunners in the game.
The Raiders are likely to carry five backs – three tailbacks (Murray, Washington, Richard) and two fullbacks (Olawale, Reece when he returns). There’s a good chance Atkinson III or Jones could stick on the roster at least until Reece returns.
Scott Bair thinks Jones will definitely make the opening roster and that maybe Richard will be phased out when Reece returns rather than Jones. Atkinson’s lack of special team ability could prove that correct when it comes time for final cuts and the coaches look for overall value.
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