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Raiders training camp: Zamir White leaves plenty to be desired

Raiders’ 2nd-year tailback started well against 49ers, but ended with a thud in preseason opener

NFL: Preseason-San Francisco 49ers at Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas Raiders running back Zamir White (35) is unable to break the tackle of San Francisco 49ers safety Ji’Ayir Brown as he heads towards the end zone during last Sunday’s preseason opener for both teams.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Las Vegas Raiders wanted to see what they have in second-year tailback Zamir White in the team’s preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday, so much so, they gave the Georgia product seven carries during their 10-play scoring drive.

The 6-foot and 215-pounder’s one-yard touchdown plunge on 3rd-and-goal capped the Raiders opening drive with White running well and churning out 28 yards on those seven carries.

But as the game progressed, White’s effectiveness waned.

The 2022 fourth-round pick produced only 15 more yards on his next six carries and finished with a very pedestrian 3.3 yards per carry average on his 13-carry, 43-yard output. White wasn’t targeted in the passing game and, to compound matters, was dropped in the backfield on a fourth-and-one play in the second quarter that saw the Niners defense get the best of the Raiders offensive line to shoot gaps and get behind the line of scrimmage. That ended White’s day in the preseason opener.

It’s difficult to ignore White ran behind an offensive line without starters Kolton Miller (left tackle) and Andre James (center) in the lineup — Justin Herron started on the blindside while Hroniss Grasu was at the pivot. But what’s also hard to avoid were the distinct issues that were present in White’s rookie year pop up in the preseason opener. So that must be taken into account and, perhaps, White would’ve been more productive after the first series behind the Raiders complete starting offensive line.

San Francisco 49ers v Las Vegas Raiders
Raiders running back Zamir White, center, is stopped in the backfield by 49ers’ Kerry Hyder Jr. and Ambry Thomas on a fourth-and-one play in the second quarter.
Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Still, White, who is nicknamed Zeus — after the thunder god in Greek mythology for his athletic prowess — seems zap less at times. Meaning, if the hole is both apparent and there early, White can dart through with power and speed. But if running lanes don’t open early, White doesn’t display the patience, agility or evasiveness to make something out of nothing — unlike Raiders bell cow running back Josh Jacobs. Yes, White can be characterized as bigger and stronger than Las Vegas’ clear-cut RB1, but he’s also rigid and doesn’t process as quickly as Jacobs.

Now, it’s not all doom and gloom for White. Far from it. He’s only 23 years old and has plenty of learning to do. And, with Jacobs absent from training camp and ensuing preseason tilts, the second-year halfback will get plenty of work to showcase improvement. It was just one exhibition game and there are two more before the regular season. First up is a Saturday matchup with the Los Angeles Rams and then the preseason finale against the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday, Aug. 26.

But, until White shows he can be a patient and elusive runner, the significant drop off from Jacobs to him will be quite apparent. And that’s going to potentially hurt the Raiders offense as a whole.

Extra Points

—The Raiders other second-year running back Brittain Brown didn’t dress for the team’s preseason opener. There isn’t any timeline on his return, yet, but it may explain why Las Vegas brought in veteran Damien Williams and Darwin Thompson. The Athletic’s Tashan Reed noted on Wednesday, Brown wasn’t at the Raiders and Rams joint practice, either.