Despite having flown under the radar for a long time, expect Olawale to create problems this season
The Oakland Raiders signed Jamize Olawale off of the Dallas Cowboy’s practice squad in 2012. While Olawale wasn’t a big part of the offense, he was a solid special teams player. He even led the team in special teams tackles with 14 in 2014 after coming in third the previous season with eight.
Despite being buried beneath Marcel Reece on the depth chart, the Raiders thought highly enough of Olawale to sign him to a three-year contract extension in 2015. This extension coupled with Reece getting suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season, made Reece expendable. The team cut him the first day after his suspension ended. Olawale would now have his first real chance to be a factor in the offense.
As a converted wide receiver, Olawale has better hands and athleticism than a typical fullback. While gaining 47 yards on 17 carries (2.8 Avg) with two touchdowns and 227 yards on 12 receptions (18.9 Avg) and another touchdown aren’t impressive stats, he did have a couple of big plays that shifted momentum in the games.
A closer look
With a little over ten minutes left in the Raiders’ Week 11, “Monday Night Football” game against the Texans, the Raiders found themselves down 20-13. A timed call and a tricky move to get past the safety would tie the game on a 75-yard touchdown pass.
On the play, the Texan’s defense ran a “Cover 2”. The Raiders play call of a twin vertical/flat combination was timed perfectly. The Raiders also had Amari Cooper lined up in the backfield drawing extra attention to the flat route.
As the play unfolds, Texan’s defensive back #24 passes Olawale off thinking he has deep safety help and breaks on Amari in the flat. The safety’s occupied with Mychal Rivera who’s running the other vertical route in the seam leaving Olawale wide open on his vertical route. Carr makes a perfect throw, and Olawale makes the safety miss and scores the game-tying touchdown. The Raiders would go on to win the game 27-20; here’s the play.
In Week 8, the Raiders used this same route combination, though from a different formation to jump-start their offense. The Raiders found themselves down 10-0 early in the second quarter after not being able to get anything going offensively.
The Raiders dialed up another twin vertical/flat combination with great success. Seth Roberts pulls the corner towards the middle of the field, leaving a nice hole for Carr to drop the pass into Olawale. Olawale does lose the race to the end zone, getting knocked out at the 3-yard line. It was the spark that lit the Raiders penalty filled 30-24 overtime win.
While his stat line wasn’t overly impressive last season, Olawale could be a dangerous weapon in the Raiders offense. A guy who can block effectively and run routes out of the backfield like a wide receiver should present matchup problems to the defense. Expect the Raiders’ new offensive coordinator Todd Downing to find creative ways to incorporate Olawale into the game plan in 2017.