The Oakland Raiders running back situation is one of the most intriguing aspects when looking at this team in 2019.
Last season, the backfield was supposed to be championed by Marshawn Lynch but after a groin injury placed him on injured reserve, Doug Martin shouldered the load. Martin averaged 4.3 yards per attempt in the nine games he started and finished the season on a strong note posting back-to-back 100-yard performances in the final two weeks. The Silver and Black brought in free agent Isaiah Crowell on March 28. They subsequently lost him for the season with an Achilles injury less than a month after he signed. The corresponding move was bringing Martin back on a one-year contract.
As such, my best case scenario for Martin is that he gets a similar workload as he did last season and serves as a mentor for rookie Josh Jacobs. With the first year player also in the backfield, it isn’t quite clear who will start but regardless of who it is, Jacobs will surely get his fair share of touches. Even if Martin is dubbed the “starter,” I don’t see his touches vastly exceeding the rookie.
Jalen Richard is another running back returning to Oakland from the 2018 season after the team placed the $3.095 million, second round tender on him last March. This is a player who I think needs to see an increase in usage. As a rusher, he was most productive as a rookie, rushing for 491-yards on 83 carries. In year two, he only saw 56 carries and in 2018 he ended with 55.
Richard boasts a career average of 5.3 yards per attempt and is a viable threat catching the ball out of the backfield. Quarterback Derek Carr and ‘The Rocket’ connected 68 times through the air last season, that’s 12 more receptions than his first two years combined. With a multitude of new talent for DC to throw too, Richard might not see as many targets in 2019. However, my best case scenario is that he is still a consistent weapon for Carr in a situational role with defenses likely focused on Antonio Brown and company.
While Richard may have seen a dip in carries after his first season, his utilization as a pass catcher has kept him on the field. The same cannot be said for fellow running back DeAndre Washington. Unfortunately for him, his usage has seen a significant decline year by year. If you ask me, the writing is on the wall and my best case scenario for the former fifth-round pick is simply making the 53-man roster.
And of course, there is fan favorite Chris Warren III. After an eye-opening preseason in 2018, he was put on IR with a knee injury. My best case scenario for him is similar to that of Washington – making the final roster would be great but it’s a tall task with multiple veterans and a first round pick as his competition.
In my opinion, Jacobs and Richard are the only locks for the 53-man roster and with the differing styles Warren III and Washington play with, I’d give the slight edge to Warren III to make the team over Washington. Martin will more than likely make the team, although, who knows, maybe Warren III convinces head coach Jon Gruden and general Mike Mayock to keep him over the ‘Muscle Hamster’. The two have similar running styles, but with the youth of Warren III, he can be used as a building block for the future as a possible one-two punch with Jacobs. While this article isn’t necessarily my roster prediction, these are the things that will likely play out if Warren III does make the final roster.
Last and certainly not least is the aforementioned Josh Jacobs. The former Alabama running back was selected with one of the three first-round picks held by Oakland in April’s draft and is already garnering high praise. ESPN’s senior fantasy football expert Matthew Berry says “His usage is gonna be ridiculous” and NFL Network’s own Deion Sanders said, “He is a bonafide baller.” My best case scenario for Jacobs is that he takes the reigns of the backfield and shows why he was the first running back off the board in the 2019 NFL draft.
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