NAPA, Calif. (AP) — Latavius Murray is counting on more help at running back leading to more big runs of his own this season for the Oakland Raiders.
After topping 1,000 yards rushing and going to the Pro Bowl as an alternate while carrying almost the entire running load for the Oakland Raiders last season, Murray believes he can have an even more productive bigger year this season because the Raiders added rookie DeAndre Washington and other potential runners to the mix.READ MORE: Despite Fines, Pleasant Hill In-N-Out Remains Defiant Over Customer Vaccine Verifications
“That’s going to be the difference this year for me, having somebody to come in and carry the load for a little while and keep me fresh so when I come in I can do better things and have more of those explosive and big runs that I showed I can have,” Murray said.
Murray got little relief last season when he ranked fourth in the NFL among all backs with 680 offensive snaps. Recently released Roy Helu Jr. was second among Raiders halfbacks with 91 offensive snaps as Oakland was the only team in the NFL that did not have at least two halfbacks play 100 or more snaps.
That heavy workload for a player for a player with just 82 carries his first two years in the NFL contributed to Murray having decreased production and late in the season.
Murray’s yards per carry dropped from 4.8 yards the first eight games to 3.3 over the second half of the season. It also appeared to take a toll in games as Murray averaged just 2.2 yards per carry in the fourth quarter, down more than 2 yards a carry from the first three quarters.
“I think over the course of the season that it just may catch up to you,” he said. “There are just going to be those days where obviously I’m maybe not as fresh or explosive every single Sunday. They’ve done a great job of getting some other guys in there and showing me this training camp that’s the plan for this season and to try to keep me fresh and keep me in a healthy state of mind so I can go out there and be the back I know I can be.”
Murray finished the season with 266 carries for 1,066 yards and six touchdowns. Oakland’s second-leading rusher in 2015 was quarterback Derek Carr with 138 and fullback Jamize Olawale was the only other player to reach even 100 yards rushing for the season with 110.READ MORE: Mariposa Sheriff To Announce What Killed Family On Hike In Sierra National Forest
That glaring need for a capable backup runner led the Raiders to draft DeAndre Washington in the fifth round after he rushed for 1,492 yards and 14 touchdowns last season at Texas Tech.
Washington has made a good first impression on the Raiders with strong play in camp and a productive exhibition debut. Washington gained 75 yards from scrimmage, juking safety Marqui Christian on a 25-yard run and adding a 32-yard reception to convert a third down.
“That’s why they brought me in, to create mismatches against opposing defenses,” Washington said. “On that play, they were guarding me with a d-end so I had to make my money on that play definitely.”
Washington wasn’t the only back who has stood out this summer. George Atkinson had five carries for 97 yards and two scores against the Cardinals and undrafted free agent Jalen Richard has been impressive in practice but sat out the exhibition game with an injury.
But with coach Jack Del Rio wanting the Raiders to be a dominant running team after struggling in that area last season, there figure to be plenty of carries to go around for Murray and whoever becomes his backup.
“I want to have more rushes,” Del Rio said. “I don’t want him to have less. If anything, maybe a little more, but I want him to be more productive. We want other guys to be involved and be able to run it as well. We’re working on becoming a team that’s capable of running the ball well. We never really, truly established that last year.”MORE NEWS: UPDATE: Judge Denies Bail for Los Gatos Mom Accused of Hosting Drunken Teen Sex Parties
NOTES: The Raiders broke camp Tuesday. They will resume practice at their facility in Alameda after playing an exhibition game at Green Bay on Thursday night. … Oakland signed free agent TE Jake McGee to replace Gabe Holmes, who could be out for the season with an ankle injury.