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A plea for more Jalen Richard snaps in the slot

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The Raiders desperately need to revitalize their passing attack and getting Jalen Richard more involved as a receiver just might do the trick

NFL: Preseason-Oakland Raiders at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With Hunter Renfrow out with a broken rib and punctured lung suffered against the Jets, the Raiders offense has become bogged down and predictable.

Depending on the personnel on the field and the formation called, defenders are tipped off to Oakland’s tendencies. The receiving trio of Tyrell Williams, Zay Jones and Keelan Doss looked utterly uninspiring on Sunday against the Chiefs, combining for four catches for 34 yards on eight targets.

To mix things up, the Raiders should get Jalen Richard involved in the pass offense more often. Last Sunday, Richard only had three snaps at receiver, playing two in the slot and one out wide. On those snaps, he blocked for a screen, went in motion for a jet sweep fake and ran a curl from an empty shotgun set, with Derek Carr not looking his way.

Richard is a plus-pass catcher at running back with the type of elusiveness and speed to separate from linebackers in coverage. Putting him in the slot more frequently while keeping Josh Jacobs in the backfield could make the offense more unpredictable.

The Chargers have experimented with this idea with two-back sets with Austin Ekeler in the slot and Melvin Gordon in the backfield. Similarly, the Cowboys have found success with Tony Pollard in the slot and Ezekiel Elliot in the backfield. And that’s without even mentioning James White, whom the Patriots create mismatches with on a weekly basis against opposing linebackers.

Bringing Richard across the formation with jet sweep action more often could open up off-tackle power runs and cutback lanes by forcing opposing defenders to keep backside contain. If the defense doesn’t respect the jet sweep action and fails to account for it, the Raiders could actually hand it off and gash them.

Thus far this season, Richard has been ineffective as a runner, gaining only 75 yards on 23 carries. He and DeAndre Washington have been primarily asked to spell Jacobs on short yardage situations. Problem is, neither of them are particularly good as power runners and the Raiders are simply taking Jacobs off the field to limit the damage to his fractured right shoulder.

Meanwhile, as a receiver, Richard has been productive with 26 grabs on 31 targets for 223 yards. At certain points, Richard has looked like lightning as a receiving threat. He played a pivotal part in a Week 9 victory over the Lions, taking Oakland from their own 25-yard line to the Lions 9-yard line after four consecutive touches on a game-winning drive. Two of those touches were 20-plus yard receptions.

In a matchup-based league where creating an advantage is of utmost importance, Richard is a better option on many pass plays than Doss, who was only able to create a modicum of separation on a small handful of his routes against Kansas City.

The Raiders will likely be getting Renfrow back in the fold by Week 16 if his injury rehab goes according to plan, but in the meantime they have two all-important games against the Titans and Jaguars that could come to define the season.

A loss in this Sunday’s game against Tennessee could spell the end of the Raiders fading playoff hopes. They need to pull out all the stops to try to get a sputtering offense back on track, and giving Richard a hefty helping of snaps in the slot could invigorate the passing attack.