Recently, Raiders left tackle Donald Penn said the Raiders were going to run the ball until the defense stops them. That sounds great in theory but if the defense stops them from the start, it doesn't mean a whole lot. So, let's take a look at what the Raiders are working with at running back as they head into training camp this week.
RB: Darren McFadden, Maurice Jones-Drew, Jeremy Stewart, Kory Sheets, Latavius Murray, George Atkinson III
FB: Marcel Reece, Jamize Olawale, Karl Williams
Maurice Jones-Drew was signed as a free agent from the Jaguars. Kory Sheets was signed out of the CFL. George Atkinson III and Karl Williams were signed as undrafted free agents.
The big question
Is the running back group really talented or just crowded?
There are a lot of options in this group but all of them come with questions. McFadden as never been able to stay healthy and has been ineffective of late, MJD is nearing the 30-year running back threshold, Kory Sheets has thrived but against inferior CFL competition, not much is expected of Stewart, and after being injured all last season Murray is a total unknown at this point. Hard to know just what to expect. It could mean the difference between having some difficult cuts and choosing the lesser of the evils.
Best case scenario
Maurice Jones-Drew had the worst season of his career last year. He says it's because of injury. His performance over the final five games of last season was more on par with his career numbers (4.5 yards per carry). If that is more indicative of his current level of talent, the Raiders have their number one back. Darren McFadden was brought back with hope he could resurrect his career and if used properly, and in a running back by committee, they could catch lightning in a bottle. Reece also gets utilized as the X-factor he is and the defenses have a steady dose of runners and receivers out of the backfield.
Worst case scenario
MJD turns out to not be the same MJD he once was as a feature back. McFadden plays as he has for the past two seasons and then gets injured as he has in each of his six NFL seasons. Then the Raiders would be left hoping they have something in Stewart, Sheets, and/or Murray - not a group that inspires great hope.
Maurice Jones-Drew is an Oakland native and grew up a Raiders fan. He was born in Oakland, raised in Richmond and Antioch and went to high school at De LaSalle High School in Concord. Raiders 2013 seventh round pick TJ Carrie also grew up in Antioch and attended De LaSalle High School.
Darren McFadden's contract is a low-cost, one-year deal and has almost no guaranteed money. If he gets hurt early on, he is just as much in jeopardy of being cut as any of these backs.
Kory Sheets was MVP of last year's CFL Grey Cup for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He just added an ‘A' to his team affiliation this year going from the 'Riders to the Raiders. He also returns to where his NFL career began when he was an undrafted free agent signing by the 49ers back in 2009, but didn't make the team.
George Atkinson III is the son of Raiders Legendary defensive back of the same name. Once the draft was over, the Notre Dame product said he knew exactly where he wanted to sign and made no secret of it. He is a bit of a long shot in this group but the practice squad seems a decent bet.