There have been ten free agents signed by the Raiders this offseason. The last one was former top pick Trent Richardson who has joined his third team in three years. Upon signing with the team Richardson said he expects to be the starter.
The way Richardson sees it, a player MUST always expect to be the starter if he is to make it happen.
"If a guy is coming in and doesn't expect to be a starter, why is that guy here?" Richardson said after his signing on March 17. "For me, I expect to be a starter wherever I'm at. I just can't wait for the opportunity."
There is some merit in that perspective but Jack Del Rio's point of view appears to be very different in that regard. Del Rio wants a guy who is more concerned with putting in the work and doing whatever is asked of him regardless of whether it leads to a starting job.
Said Del Rio of Richardson, "My challenge to him was ‘look, I don't want you to worry about anything other than coming in here and competing your butt off every day. Come in here and be a great teammate, come in here and find a role on special teams, come in here and just grind every day with a hunger like you had as a freshman at Alabama."
"I really believe if he can recapture that then he has a chance to maximize that potential. And that potential is great, but why worry about what it may turn into? Let's just work day to day, being a great teammate, being unselfish, working your tail off every day and see where it takes you."
Asking Richardson to come into the fold with that mindset could be the key to unlocking the potential he had when he became the third overall pick in the draft just three years ago.
At Alabama he was surrounded by supremely talented running backs. He had to wait his turn behind Mark Ingram first. Then when the job was finally Richardson's, he had to stave off Eddie Lacy as his backup. When all was said and done, Richardson was by far the highest regarded coming out of college. And at this point, he is already on the brink of being labeled an outright bust.
He will get his opportunity in Oakland, but for the first time since that freshman year at Alabama, he has an uphill battle to prove himself.
That being said, Richardson isn't the only one who has to prove himself. Del Rio also said there will be a competition at running back for every role. That means starter, backup, and third down back.
Right now Latavius Murray is the incumbent starter and Roy Helu Jr is the third down back. Murray had a couple of great games last season, but must show that consistently. Helu has to prove he can fit in this offense after spending his first few NFL seasons in a zone running scheme in Washington.
The other two running backs on the roster are George Atkinson III and Terrance Cobb. GAIII spent most of last season on the practice squad and was called up to the active roster for special teams duties. Cobb was a reserve futures signing.
Del Rio made it clear there will be a competition and perhaps putting one's personal ego aside is key to being part of that competition.
"I think it will be competitive situation, yeah," Del Rio continued. "We'll let these guys compete for their roles. I think having some solid depth, having guys in there that have done it, that can step up in protection, that can be reliable targets getting out of the backfield on third down, those are important qualities. Adding the ability to cover kicks and do things on special teams, that's important. Not everybody can be the guy that scores the touchdown. We have other things that have to be done and we're gonna ask our guys to be unselfish, to play hard, and play together. We just talked about three good players that will have a chance to compete for their roles and create opportunities for themselves to be heavily involved."
Nothing is completely settled among this group. And you can bet there will be other running backs added to the mix either signed or drafted. The starter and every other role will have been earned.