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Raiders Week 1 preview: Ameer Abdullah emerges as the new 3rd down back

Abdullah making his best James White impression

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Jacksonville Jaguars v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The Las Vegas Raiders' new head coach Josh McDaniels is known to target running backs in his offense. From Kevin Faulk to James White, receivers out of the backfield were paramount to Tom Brady's success and six super bowls.

With him moving from the east to the southwest, McDaniels has a chance to implement that exact imprint on the Raiders. He hasn't had the outside weapons at his disposal since Randy Moss and Dante Stallworth. The offense will air it out and spread the ball all over the field, but the third down back will be vital for a successful passing attack.

Many assumed it would be Kenyan Drake with his skill set and fit for the scheme. He didn't finish training camp with the silver and black because of the emergence of Ameer Abdullah. A nomad running back since being drafted in the same round as Drake, he gets his chance to make an impact on the back end of his career.

Abdullah struggled to stay healthy early in his career while he tried to find his role in the NFL. After his release by the Minnesota Vikings, he saw an opportunity with the Carolina Panthers to display his talents. He was one of the better third-down backs in the NFL, ranking 11th on Pro Football focus in receiving grade while having 35 receptions.

Abdullah's niche in the league made him valuable to McDaniels, who is looking for a dependable receiving back. His role is clear, and the former Nebraska Cornhusker understands where he fits on the team.

“I feel like if I catch the ball, that’s when I’m at my best after I have the ball in my hands. So, guys, who can create those shorter drives where you don’t have to go first, second and third (down). You can go first to first, second to first. I think we have a combination of guys on our team who can do that, and I think I fit right in with that pod of people”

He can be a factor in the open field when he gets his hands on the football. Screen designs have been missing for Raider Nation the past four seasons, which changes with the new play caller. Abdullah created explosive plays when executing screens when he was featured in the Panthers' offense.

His route running ability will expose mismatches with linebackers exhibiting how he can help move the chains. It allows the Raiders multiple ways to attack NFL defenses.

While Abdullah's career has been disappointing, his production last season points in the right direction. McDaniels is all about players doing their job and knowing their role; Abdullah checks that box.