If Murray can't play, Raiders trust rookie tag-team to fill void

If Murray can't play, Raiders trust rookie tag-team to fill void

ALAMEDA – Latavius Murray started every game in 2015. Last season’s Raiders are certainly thankful for that.

They didn’t have another solid option at running back, a point proven by Murray receiving 72 percent of the team’s carries.

This season, the Raiders made sure they had options. They drafted DeAndre Washington and then struck gold with tryout player Jalen Richard.

The pair has been productive, allowing the Raiders to use a by-committee approach on the ground. Murray leads the way with 40 carries, Washington has 23 and Richard has 17. They’ve generally rotated series or sections of plays, meaning roles are undefined enough where any player could step in for another.

That might be necessary heading into Sunday’s home game against San Diego. Murray is battling a toe injury, reportedly turf toe – a sprain in ligaments around the big toe -- and it’s uncertain whether he’ll be ready to play the Chargers.

Murray and the Raiders haven’t given up hope on him playing this game.

“We hope that (Murray) can get back by Sunday,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “I know that he’s working extremely hard at it. They are working with his shoes and things like that to help him in that regard. We just have to wait and see.”

The Raiders will have a plan if Murray can’t go. It will include Jamize Olawale in certain situations, and a steady dose of rookie rushers that already have seen live action.

“We hope it helps,” Musgrave said. “They’ve gotten some valuable experience.”

Washington has 137 yards on 28 touches. Richard has 183 yards and a touchdown on 22 touches, though a large chunk came on a 75-yard touchdown run at New Orleans.

Both guys have contributed in all situations including the passing game, where rookies are usually deficient.

“It has helped us immensely,” Musgrave said. “They are so sharp in pass protection as well as when we get them in passing game as receivers. Latavius is our smartest pass protector, working with the offensive line and (line coach Mike Tice), but these young guys have really fallen in step with him so that we can trust them, and that opens up a lot of great avenues for us.”

Washington feels a lot more confortable in the scheme at this point. Richard is in a similar spot. They feel comfortable that, if Murray can’t play and the rotation drops a man, the NFL’s No. 5-ranked rushing attack will be just fine.

Both guys are smaller in height, running backs who can get lost behind a massive offensive line and burst through cracks into the second level. They’ve been effective running the ball though, without Murray, they wouldn’t be complimenting a bigger, slashing back. There’s still confidence among the rookies, a sentiment validated with early-season experience.

“The experience has been huge,” Washington said. “We’re both playmakers. We both do good things and have good strengths. It’s run to watch Jalen do his thing. It’s like a tag-team deal. He comes out, and then I go do my thing. You just have to be ready when your number gets called.”

Reports: Marshawn Lynch to remain with Raiders in 2018


Reports: Marshawn Lynch to remain with Raiders in 2018

The Raiders signed veteran running back Doug Martin on Thursday, prompting many to believe the move meant the end of Marshawn Lynch's time in Oakland.

But as it has been expected, Martin is just another piece to go along with Lynch in the Raiders' backfield. According to multiple national reports, Lynch will remain in Silver and Black this upcoming season. 

The news will become official when the Raiders pay Lynch his $1 million roster bonus on Sunday. 

“One of the reasons I’m excited to be with the Raiders is to join forces with Lynch. We’ll see what happens," Jon Gruden told Insider Scott Bair at the NFL Scouting Combine. “We have to take a look at the entire roster, but I’m counting on him. I’m counting on him being a big part of this football team.”

Lynch, 31, rushed for 891 yards, averaging 4.3 yards per carry, and scored seven touchdowns for the Raiders in 2017. 

New Raiders cornerback supremely confident, 'here to dominate the league'


New Raiders cornerback supremely confident, 'here to dominate the league'

Rashaan Melvin has the supreme confidence of a No. 1 cornerback, with none of the pedigree. Top cover men are often drafted high, paid well or both, with a steady ascent to elite status.

This undrafted talent bounced around the league without job security, trying and often failing to find NFL footing.

Melvin spent time with Tampa Bay, Miami, Baltimore, New England and Miami again before establishing himself in Indianapolis. The Colts gave him a real shot and he took advantage, evolving into the team’s top cornerback. Last year was Melvin’s best, but it didn’t provide a long-term contract despite a bull market for cover men.

Melvin signed a one-year, $6.5 million deal with the Raiders on Friday, the type of prove-it deal that could establish a big payday down this time next year. The 28-year old doesn’t consider that pressure. Melvin knowns another big year's on the way, one that proves he's an elite cornerback

"I’m here to dominate the league," Melvin said Friday in a conference call. "It might be time for some new faces at the cornerback position. That’s my take on that. I’m excited for it.”

Melvin wouldn’t trade his long road for a conventional path, and believes experience both good and bad has prepared him for a pivotal season.

“I’ve been cut four times,” Melvin said. “I’ve been in four different locker rooms, and I was able to gain my teammates’ trust, my coaches’ trust and the organization’s trust as well. My confidence just grows over time. There are not a lot of players that can say they’ve been cut four times and end up in a situation where I’m at today. Like I said, it’s perfect timing. My work ethic, my style of play and the way I approach the game and the way I approach my job, my business, it speaks for itself.”

Melvin’s work ethic is unquestioned. His reputation as a grinder is well documented, especially after establishing himself in Indianapolis. Commitment to a craft has created a player with consistent coverage and ball skills.

Melvin was excellent last year. According to Pro Football Focus, Melvin created an incomplete pass (combining passes defensed and interceptions) on 23.6 percent of his targets.

Passers had a 60.3 passer rating against him in 2017, with just 29 completions for 328 yards on 55 targets. The passer rating was 86.6 in 2016, his only other season as a regular starter.

The Raiders need that type of player on the outside. They’ve had inconsistent cornerback play (that’s being kind) in recent seasons, and are hoping Melvin provides stability at a key position. The Northern Illinois alum has loftier aspirations, individually and as the leader of a young position group.

“The goal is to be the best player I can be, first-team All-Pro,” Melvin said. “I’m going to show my leadership, help these young guys out this year. They have tons of potential to be successful in their own careers. For me coming in here and being the leader and showing that, hey, this is what it takes to be successful in this football league, that’s what I’m willing to do. That’s what I’m willing to bring to the table. On the football field, but outside as well.”

Paying $6.5 million for all that would be a bargain. Melvin’s the key acquisition in a secondary built around 2016 first-round safety Karl Joseph and 2017 first-round cornerback Gareon Conley. This secondary can be solid if those guys can realize potential and Melvin’s a true No. 1 cornerback.

He considers that title appropriate, and is ready to show he’s more that a one-year wonder. The Raiders have great confidence in Melvin, something clear after targeting him early in the free-agent process. Financing’s always a big factor, but Friday’s meeting with head coach Jon Gruden, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther and secondary coach Derrick Ansley convinced Melvin that Oakland’s a proper fit.

“I can relate to these guys,” Melvin said. “They have big plans for me, big plans for the organization. I was born to be a part of something special; that’s happening in Oakland. It was a good thing. We were able to get everything done, a deal done. I’m just excited to be here and I’m excited to see what the future holds for us as a team and me as a player.”