Last week performance by running back Chris Warren III against the Detroit Lions didn’t come out of nowhere. His performance this week showed why the undrafted rookie running back should make the Oakland Raiders’ roster. Warren is just the kind of grinder head coach Jon Gruden loves to have on his team.
In that Week 1 preseason game, Warren had 86 yards on 13 carries including a 26-yard run. Then he followed it up with 110 yards including a 23-yard run and a 3-yard touchdown run on 18 carries in week 2 against the Rams.
From training camp to now, he has looked more and more like the Raiders’ back of the future. Marshawn Lynch is the back of right now and at 32, we don’t know how much longer he’ll play. After him, who knows?
Doug Martin will turn 30 during the season and has averaged 2.9 yards per carry each of the last two years. And if you want to look at the totality of his 6-year career, he has only averaged over four yards per carry twice. DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard are both scat-backs so regardless of which one makes the team, neither is able to carry the load in the future.
But the 6’2”, 253-pounder with 4.5 40 speed can be the next Raiders’ do-it-all back when Lynch is done. With his size, speed and power, he can run effectively inside and outside. He’s more elusive than you think once he gets into the secondary too. So when his vision and patience help him find the big hole when it’s there, he’s a threat to take it the distance.
The Raiders only threw him one pass last week and he caught it for seven yards. But at Texas, he showed he can be a weapon in the passing game when he moved to tight end and H-back. He protects the passer well when he knows his assignment too. But both he and Gruden agree that there is work to be done in order for him to become that guy.
“He’s a good back, isn’t he? I mean, he’s run for almost 200 yards in two weeks. And I know he’s not playing against the regulars but he’s not playing with the regulars either,” Gruden said after the game Saturday. “He’s a big powerful back that’s taking care of the ball. He’s got to get better without the football—that’s what it’s all about with him. We know he can run, we know he’s powerful and fast and elusive, but he’s got to get a lot better without the football to be an NFL back.”
Still, Warren looks like he could have as bright a future as any rookie at their position. Neither Doug Martin, Jalen Richard nor DeAndre Washington have the kind of future he has so Gruden has to keep him. He’s Mike Alstott with breakaway speed so Gruden will, even if that means keeping four tailbacks and a fullback.
Warren could play fullback too if needed.