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Training Camp is the real test on RB Doug Martin’s possible resurgence

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NFL: Oakland Raiders-OTA Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There has been a ton of praise being heaped on free agent acquisition RB Doug Martin since he has arrived in Oakland. The reviews have been raving about his quickness and his ability to grasp the offense. Our own Levi Damien advised to pump the breaks a little though by pointing out the similarities between Martin and Maurice Jones-Drew who had a similar story unfold years earlier.

Despite all of the off-season reviews of Jones-Drew being raves, he ended up being a dud for the Raiders. That’s not to say that Doug Martin therefore will definitely be a dud, but the phrase history repeats itself does exist for a reason. Just because the conversation now is about how good he has looked does not mean that he will be performing that way when the games start.

It doesn’t mean he won’t be able to play great either though. The first big step is coming up now in training camp where we will finally truly be able to judge the running backs. So far up til now it has been no pads, just shorts for the running backs. Until these backs start feeling contact it’s really just for show, but the contact is about to begin in earnest now.

If Doug Martin is going to prove that he does still have some good football left then now is going to be the time to really start to show it. Training camp is hell on all of these players, but it is especially tough on older running backs who take a lot of punishment. With the cards stacked against Martin because of his age (29), it will be all that much more impressive if he does end up playing well for the Raiders.

It is assumed that Marshawn Lynch is the starter and likely bell cow under Gruden who has always preferred a hard nosed, physical runner like Lynch. However, there is plenty of reps left for other running backs so if Martin continues to do great then there will definitely be plenty of work for him. This is when he needs to prove he should get those carries though.

It’s one of those times where you really do have to be cautiously optimistic though, because these things just don’t work out more often than not for running backs approaching 30. The fact that the Raiders will be relying on two different running backs close to or over 30 is a bit scary in general because the Raiders desperately will need a successful running attack this season.

Gruden’s offense is built on short passes, playaction and a whole lot of running with an occasional deep shot. If they can get what they have seen so far from Doug Martin to show up on the field that will really help them succeed in the long run. When so much relies on the run game there isn’t room to fail, so Oakland will need their running backs to step up their game this season.

It will be most interesting to see if the Raiders let go of Jalen Richard or DeAndre Washington now that Doug Martin is seemingly claiming one of the top 2 spots. It’s their chance to prove they belong up there too now that the pads are coming on. Richard has a leg up on Washington because of his success on returns but if he fumbles like he did last year then he won’t be given the same chances under Jon Gruden as he got under Jack Del Rio.

That adds another layer to the scariness of relying on another aging veteran like they will be with relying on Martin though. Both Richard and Washington have shown strong potential, so if either one of them has to get cut for Martin they will be picked up elsewhere quickly. There will be no second chances on the decisions the Raiders make here.

If they roll with Martin and release one of the other two guys then it’s even more important that Martin performs well in the regular season. It’s nice seeing the hometown favorite having a great off-season, but that will turn out to be fool’s gold if he can’t back it up. If the Raiders will lose a different talented runner to keep him it’s all the more reason that Martin must prove his capabilities without a doubt this training camp.

All of this makes training camp and preseason very exciting to watch for how it all plays out. This is a true position competition building that will take all of the time available to make the roster decision about. I love the underdog so I’m rooting for Doug Martin to succeed full heartedly, but there are consequences if the trust shown to him doesn’t pay off.

As Levi Damien pointed out, just look at Maurice Jones-Drew on how you don’t want it to end up.