It’s a small sample size for the Raiders, being that we’re just two games in, but through the first two weeks, the Raiders have the NFL’s top offense in total yards (470 ypg) and the league’s bests rushing offense in yards per carry (6.3). They have the league’s second most rushing yards per game (161) despite running the ball an average of about ten fewer times per game than the top ranked Panthers.
Even through just two games, that’s quite impressive.
For the most part it’s been a committee backfield for the Raiders, with Murray sharing carries with rookies Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. This has meant fewer carries for Murray, but make no mistake, he’s still their go-to back and leads the team in just about every rushing category.
Thus far, he is averaging a healthy 5.3 yards per carry which is second in the NFL among backs with at least 22 carries. He has also added two touchdowns on the season.
So, how is he doing this?
Following the season opener against the Saints, Derek Carr made a comment about a 6-yard touchdown run Murray had in which he steamrolled a linebacker to get into the end zone. Carr called it “Angry Tay”
“Oh yeah. That was angry ‘Tay,’” said Carr. “I love that. That’s the ‘Tay Train,’ man. When he puts those pads down, how fast he is, how explosive, how strong, how big, there are not a lot of people that are going to push him backwards. To see him put his pads down and do that, it got everyone fired up.”
Carr’s unintentional takeoff on ‘Tay Train’ is one that Murray has embraced to represent his new and improved punishing style.
“This year I’m just making sure I use my size to my advantage,” said Murray. “Breaking tackles, trying to run through guys. I guess when that ball is in my hand, whoever’s on the other side of the ball becomes the victim of ‘Angry Tay.’”
The results continued in week two when he ran hard against the Falcons and earned Pro Football Focus’s top running back grade for the week. PFF pointed out that of Murray’s 57 rushing yards on just 8 carries (7.1 ypc), 54 of those yards came after contact. He added six catches for 44 yards and in total he had recorded 8 broken tackles on those runs and catches.
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave played coy this week, saying he doesn’t see a difference in how Murray has been running from last year. But those of us who have watched him know different. And obviously, from how Latavius talked about himself, he knows it too.
His complementary backs Washington and Richard are helping as well.
Last season Murray wore down late in the season. He was supposed to get help from the addition of Roy Helu Jr but Helu was hobbled by injury all season, leaving Murray to be the workhorse. He averaged 16.6 carries per game last season compared to 11.0 per game over the first two games this season, with Washington and Richard combining to split a nearly equal load.
Their league best yards per carry average (6.3) along with shows it’s working so far. As does their contributions in the passing game. The trio has recorded a combined 12 catches for 94 yards with four more catches for 45 yards going to Jamize Olawale and Taiwan Jones. Overall, there is just one incomplete pass among them – Murray is 7 of 8 for 57 yards on the season.
Not only is this the kind of “Angry” running style we have been waiting for from the 6-3, 225-pound “Tay Train”, but it’s the kind of change-of-pace complementary contributions this offense has needed. That combination is a major reason the Raiders offense is clicking so far this season.