Coming into this preseason, it was assumed that the Oakland Raiders would keep three running backs. Marshawn Lynch would be the starter, Doug Martin would back him up and Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington would battle it out for the No. 3 and final spot.
No. 1 will not change as Lynch showed last week against the Detroit Lions that he hasn’t lost anything. But undrafted free agent Chris Warren III has changed the battle for the No.3 spot. As a matter of fact, he just might have changed the battle for No. 2 spot too. That means Martin could go from supposedly pushing Lynch for carries to the roster bubble.
It all started with the joint practices with the Lions last week when he bucked Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis, whom a lot of Raiders fans wanted the Raiders to draft in the first round last year. It wasn’t pretty at all as Warren sent Davis flying through the air.
Then in the game, Warren showed good vision, patience and speed to hit the corner for his size. As hard as he is to bring down already, CW III could turn into Beast Mode II if he starts running behind his pads more consistently. Gruden got in his ear about it with the volume up at 10 so hopefully, he’s taking to it.
“It sticks with me but I’ve been running high my whole life. It’s very unfortunate, but it’s something I’ve been constantly trying to correct,” Warren said after the game. “I do tend to get up higher because I’ll try to break through a whole and I’m not thinking about getting low. I am 6’2” though, so I got to get my pads down.”
He also showed he can protect the passer but didn’t get a chance to show what he could do as a weapon in the passing game.
If you know head coach Jon Gruden, you know he likes a physical running game. And if you saw Warren in training camp or in the game, you know he could fall in love with him if he hasn’t already.
“I like that guy man, if you know anything about him his dad was one heck of a player at the Seattle Seahawks, Chris Warren, and he’s a big back. You don’t know it but he’s 253 pounds and can run 4.5,” Gruden said after the game. ‘He’s a hammer, he can really thump you and he’s got breakaway speed. But he’s improving in the passing game, he’s become more and more of a running back instead of just a runner. He’s becoming a receiver, blitz pickup, all those little details are improving but he’s got a lot of talent.”
Gruden used Tyrone Wheatley in his first stint with the Raiders and Mike Alstott was his man when he was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Plus Warren may have added value as a possible fullback if Keith Smith goes down as he has played some H-back in college.
Could he force the Raiders to keep four running backs?
Of course, it’s only one preseason game for an undrafted free agent but Warren’s 13-carry, 86-yard performance Friday has him on Gruden’s radar. DeAndre Washington performed well too with 38 yards on six carries so this will be an interesting competition.
Just keep in mind that Washington and Warren are the only two backs that would be under contract next year. Lynch could ride off into the Sunset while Martin and Richard could look to get paid if they do well this year. That could very well be a factor in the decision here.