It's never one of those things that players will say out loud but the reality things is that injuries open up opportunities for other players. That is the position Jeremy Stewart is in right now. And in that vein, the news of Latavius Murray being placed on injured reserve has to come as good news to Stewart.
An undrafted free agent rookie last season, Stewart originally signed to the Raiders practice squad just prior to last season. He was called up midseason when both Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson were lost to injury. Upon his arrival to the active roster, he leapt over Taiwan Jones as the primary backup to Marcel Reece and received 25 carries over a four-game span for a total of 101 yards.
"I feel like the Raiders are giving me a great opportunity to compete ever since I got here last year," said Stewart. "I'm just trying to make the most out of every opportunity I get. I don't know exactly what the plan is for this week but I'm definitely gonna go out there and try to make some plays and show the type of player that I am."
Latavius Murray was one of the Raiders' round six picks this season and before his injury, he was the third running back on the depth chart behind Darren McFadden and Rashad Jennings. Teams don't typically carry more than three running backs on a roster so a healthy Murray would very likely have meant Stewart was out of a job.
Teams like their draft picks. And the Raiders liked Murray. Right up until the point he was injured and couldn't play. He ran 8 times for 29 yards in the team's preseason opener against Dallas but that was the last anyone saw of him on the field. He got his knee scoped this week and the results were not what the Raiders had hoped and now he's out for the season.
Stewart is now about to head into the Raiders final preseason game with the prospects of seeing a lot of carries and the opportunity to prove to the Raiders he can be the third running back on this team and they need not seek to sign another running back off the waiver wire.
"I felt like I showed a little bit [last season]," said Stewart. "I wanted to get out there and show what I could do. I didn't show everything I could do so hopefully I'll be able to put some more stuff on film this week."
The other running back who will get extensive carries for the Raiders in this game is undrafted free agent rookie, Deonte Williams. He's currently the only competition Stewart has for that final running back spot. But one area where Stewart takes a great deal of pride is the area where Williams stuggles the most - pass protection.
"Like all our running backs, I'm pretty versatile," said Stewart. "I think I'm very good at protection and I have good hands out of the backfield so I can be a third down option if that were the case. I feel like I'm a pretty complete back also. I take a lot of pride in running the ball, making sure I know my keys and reads."
And, of course, with any reserve running back, being able to play well on special teams is a must.
"I feel like [special teams] can be another big asset for me because I played a lot of defense in high school and special teams in college a lot, so I feel like I have the advantage that a lot of guys who didn't really play a lot of special teams. I'm on all four phases right now, so I definitely feel like I can be a force in the special teams game."
The door isn't closed for Murray. He will be back next year and again try to tantalize us with his vast potential. But in the meantime, just as injuries opened a door for Stewart last year, they once again offer him an opportunity to keep his NFL career dreams alive.