It’s early yet, but even in that early going, Doug Martin appears to already have a stranglehold on a running back spot on the Raiders roster.
The 7th year running back came to the Raiders on a friendly free agent deal this offseason. Despite joining a group of backs who all have experience with the Raiders, Martin is already establishing himself and is firmly in Jon Gruden’s good graces.
“We’re also very pleased with Doug Martin,” said Gruden Wednesday over conference call with season ticket holders.
“A lot of people may have fallen asleep on Doug Martin,” Gruden continued. “He’s a two-time All Pro back, he had almost 1500 yards in two different seasons. He has not looked good here, he has looked great.”
While Marshawn Lynch is still the team’s feature back — and that will to continue to be so — Martin was the next man up in team drills in the first OTA practice. Followed by Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. That’s what Gruden says is the plan going forward with the offense using Richard and Washington “creatively” i.e. more in the receiving game.
Recently we asked who you thought would be the most likely running back(s) to be cut. The top two answers both included DeAndre Washington. But according to Gruden, it’s even possible the Raiders won’t choose him or Richard. He could choose both. Maybe even undrafted rookie Chris Warren III could have a shot. Gruden used the Super Bowl champion Eagles to illustrate his point.
“You need three or four backs to be a great offensive team,” said Gruden. “Look at what Philadelphia did last year with Corey Clement, they had the big back LeGarrette Blount, for while they had Darren Sproles, and then they went out and traded for Jay Ajayi. So, we’re gonna have a similar, I think, backfield that we can have on a weekly basis and we are really fired up.”
Raiders fans who remember Gruden’s first tenure may remember that even with a feature back, Gruden always had another back who got extensive carries. First it was Napoleon Kaufman and Harvey Williams, then Tyrone Wheatley and Kaufman, then Charlie Garner and Wheatley. One got the bulk of the carries as the feature back, but the other got plenty of the load as well.
Being that Richard and Washington are so similar, you’d have to think if both did make the 53-man roster, one would be inactive on game day. That is often the case with a fourth running back anyway. Only this time Richard and Washington would be third and fourth on the depth chart, not two and three. Or at least that’s the way things are looking early on.