By Abraham Gutierrez

Despite their 2-3 record heading into the Week 6 bye, the Oakland Raiders have proven to be a much-improved team than in years past. However, in order to contend in the AFC West, the Silver and Black need to develop a more balanced offensive attack, the ground attack in particular. Given the state of the current roster, all the pressure falls on running back Latavius Murray’s ability to remain healthy and productive out of the Raiders backfield.

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Through five games, Oakland passing game ranks 11th in the National Football League, while the rushing attack is a whopping 27th in the NFL. With no running game to speak of, the Raiders offense has become predictable, and thus, teams are gearing up to pressure quarterback Derek Carr in order to force turnovers week in and week out.

“We had pressure and I threw the hot and it just didn’t work out our way,” said the two-time Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year when asked to describe the pick-six he threw in the fourth quarter, which ended up being the game winner. During the Raiders’ 2-game skid, Carr has thrown three touchdowns, two interceptions, and has been sacked six times for a total of 49 negative yards.

“You take those turnovers out of the game and it’s a completely different looking ballgame,” Del Rio said following the Raiders’ 10-16 loss to the Broncos. “That’s football, you earn your opportunities, there are no do-over(s), but certainly, that’s an area of emphasis for us.”

Statistics tell a very compelling story, as the team’s lack of offensive balance had resulted in a two-game losing streak following a 2-1 start. It’s no coincidence that the last time Oakland won a game was three weeks ago, when Murray rushed for a career-high, 139 yards on 26 carries and a score in a 27-20 win over Cleveland.

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Since then, Murray has touched the ball just 28 times for a combined 88 yards, and averages a disappointing 44 yards per contest and no touchdowns. This is particularly surprising considering the third-year pro out of Central Florida currently ranks seventh in the league in yards per carry (4.0).

During Wednesday’s press conference, coach Del Rio was asked to put a finger on Murray’s struggles and his ball club’s inability to get the running game going.

“It’s timing,” said the 53-year-old former USC Trojan. “You’re working on double teams and being able to come off and just some of the little nuances that make the running game go where you do it a little bit better and it turns into an eight-yard gain instead of a three or four-yard gain.” It’s what you’re after – creating the space and the opportunity for our backs. We’ve had some examples when we’ve done it pretty well and we haven’t been quite as good as we looked to be. The encouraging thing is we’ve converted enough on third down to have enough opportunities. If you’re getting 25, 26 runs in a game you’re getting a decent amount of opportunities to run it, so, that’s a positive.”

Murray, who was listed in the Raiders Week 5 injury report due to shoulder problems, appears to be healthy and ready to go coming out of the bye. Keeping him that way will determine weather Oakland will enter the playoff conversation, or if this team is destined for yet another losing season. The Raiders will travel to Qualcomm Stadium for an intrastate showdown with the San Diego Chargers in Week 7 (Oct. 25).

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Abe Gutierrez’s (Twitter: @GutierrezAbe) passion led him to ditch law school journey in order to launch his own publishing company. His expertise make him a valued addition to, and the CBS-Sports family. Some of his work can be found on CBS-Miami (Dolphins), CBS-LosAngeles (Chargers), CBS-BayArea (Raiders), CBS-NewYork (NY Jets), CBS-TampaBay (Buccaneers),, and other online publications.