Latavius Murray vs Trent Richardson
These two running backs took very different paths in their football lives. And yet as fate would have it, here they are, competing for the same job on the Raiders.
Richardson was a big time prospect out of Alabama and was chosen by the Browns at third overall in the 2012 draft. Latavius Murray was a little heralded prospect out of Central Florida who went in the sixth round of the 2013 draft.
After one full season in Cleveland, Richardson was traded to the Colts just two games into his second season. He spent the rest of that season and all of last season in Indianapolis before they cut their losses and released him. He is now on his third NFL team in just three years for likely his last chance to show some of the potential that had him so highly drafted.
Latavius Murray's NFL career has taken a while to get going. He spent his entire rookie 2013 season on injured reserve with a foot injury. Then last season, he was in the mix early on only to be a forgotten man by midseason, despite an utterly incompetent running attack.
Murray had his breakout game in San Diego in week 11 when he ran for 43 yards on 4 carries. That earned him more carries the following week against the Chiefs, and he lit it up, running for 112 yards and two touchdowns on just 4 carries. This included a 90-yard touchdown run. He would have gotten more carries, but he suffered a concussion that knocked him out of the game.
Without Murray in St Louis the following week, the Raiders were stomped 52-0. Murray would return the following week against the 49ers and the Raiders would get their second win of the season. In that game, he got his most extensive work, carrying the ball 23 times for 76 yards (3.3 ypc) helping control the clock. He would get 23 carries again two weeks later and the Raiders picked up their third and final win of the season.
That production has earned him the trust of the coaching staff as the hopeful starter this season. They didn't go big in free agency, signing only change-of-pace back Roy Helu Jr early in the process.
Richardson was added later in free agency. The team is taking a chance on him and he sees what could be his best opportunity to make a team and get a chance to compete for a starting job again.
When you watch these two play, what seems to stand out in contrast is instincts. Namely Murray shows some surprising instincts and Richardson has shown a surprising lack of them.
Those who would give Richardson the benefit of the doubt will compare his acquisition to that of Tyrone Wheatley. Wheatley was a former first round pick by the Giants (17 overall) who the team gave up on as a bust and after four seasons in New York, he was let go.
As we know, Wheatley was then signed by the Raiders and revived his career, rushing for 1982 yards and 17 touchdowns over his first two seasons in Oakland. He spent a total of six seasons in Oakland, three of which as the ‘Smash' to Charlie Garner's ‘Dash' that helped the Raiders reach the Super Bowl.
That being said, for every Tyrone Wheatley, there are countless others who don't turn things around. It is but for instances like that that teams take a chance on guys like Richardson and Wheatley hoping they can catch lightning in a bottle.
Between Murray and Richardson, the Raiders are hoping either Murray can take the next step after his success from late last season or Richardson can discover his potential that had him drafted third overall just three years ago. Both are just 24 years old, so if they have good years in them, they are ahead.