Oakland Raiders

Raiders RB Latavius Murray’s workload should increase in return

03 January 2016: Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray (28) applies a stiff arm to Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith (21) during the game between the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. The Chiefs defeated the Raiders 23-17. (Photo by James Allison/Icon Sportswire)
James Allison/Icon Sportswire

Before the 2016 NFL season seven began, there were rumblings that Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray’s starting job could be in danger. After the first four games of the season, there wasn’t much that happened to quiet those rumors. Murray had totaled just 40 carries for 172 yards and three touchdowns.

While he had caught 10 passes for 63 yards, overall, he was losing work to rookies DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard. Fortunately for the Raiders starting RB, his starting job doesn’t seem to be in jeopardy, even after he missed the last two games with a turf-toe injury.

In the Raiders’ first game without Murray, a 34-31 victory over the San Diego Chargers, Richard totaled 31 rushing yards on eight carries, while Washington posted just 23 yards on nine carries. Obviously, based on those numbers, neither player was able to push Murray and become the clear-cut No. 1 running back for the Raiders. The good news was that both players were going to get another opportunity, as Murray also missed Week 6 against the Kansas City Chiefs.

While Washington posted a better showing (10 carries for 49 yards), Richard was essentially non-existent, rushing four times for seven yards. While Washington did receive more carries for the Raiders in that game, it likely wasn’t even close to enough for head coach Jack Del Rio to push him into a full-time starter role.

To top it all off, Murray spoke before Wednesday’s practice and sounded like a man who’s ready to make a return in Week 7 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, per ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez. And when he does, there’s a strong argument now to be made that he should be the one given more carries and an extended role in the offense.

“I have no doubt that it should be a good day for me,” Murray said Wednesday about this afternoon’s practice.

“Feeling good. Just excited to be able to go out there today and just get my feet wet again, you know?”

The 4-2 Raiders desperately need consistency in the running game to go along with their strong pass offense, which is led by quarterback Derek Carr and wide receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Not only has Murray proven to have a knack for finding the end zone, but he also is averaging more yards per game (43) even on a limited number of carries this season. To top it all off, he’s rushed for 11 first downs, which may be the most important statistic of them all.

While Murray doesn’t have a 75-yard touchdown like Richard does, or as many big runs as Washington does, you have to look at the big picture here. Murray carries the load on the early downs in many cases, in the spots where opponents are thinking run. It’s obviously not every time, and Washington did a solid job in Week 6 producing with Murray sidelined, but neither rookie has done what many Raiders fans expected, which was to supplant Murray as the starter.

For Del Rio and the Raiders, it’s time to flip the script and actually give Murray the workload many expected before the season. There was a reason why the Raiders chose not to give the fourth-year running back many carries in the preseason, and it’s because he was already acknowledged as the starter, per the team’s official website. Now, Del Rio needs to back up those words and get his starter more carries, more work in the passing game and let him see the bulk of the action against the Jaguars.

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