Raiders training camp preview: Running backs

Raiders training camp preview: Running backs
July 18, 2014, 1:30 pm
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Jones-Drew and McFadden are competing for a starting job this summer. Realistically both players will get carries during the season in an effort to increase health and effectiveness for both veterans.
Scott Bair

Editor’s note: Insider Scott Bair will be providing position-by-position breakdowns each day leading up to Raiders training camp. The full squad will report on July 23, with the first practice day scheduled for July 25. This afternoon, Scott focuses on the running backs.

Who they have: Maurice Jones-Drew, Darren McFadden, Marcel Reece, Jamize Olawale, Kory Sheets, Jeremy Stewart, Latavius Murray, George Atkinson III, Karl Williams

Who they lost: Rashad Jennings

Looking back: McFadden expected a return to form last season. A new blocking scheme better fit his downhill rushing style. He was healthy as ever in the preseason, and confident he’d rebound after a career-low 3.3 yards per carry in 2012. Didn’t happen. McFadden got hurt yet again, and matched his rushing average despite playing in just 10 games. Hamstring injuries ruined his season and gave way for Jennings to be a featured back. He exceled in that role, averaging 4.5 yards per carry with a total of 1,052 all purpose yards – 733 rushing – and six touchdowns. … Reece proved as effective as ever in limited touches, and earned a Pro Bowl selection.

Overall outlook: The Raiders wanted Jennings to return, but he bolted for bigger bucks from the New York Giants. Jones-Drew, however, is a pretty nice consolation prize. While he struggled last season due to injury – there are also concerns about advancing age – the 29-year old is as lean and healthy as ever. He has a long track record of success and could be a big factor in a run-centric offensive scheme. McFadden will get carries if healthy, and the Raiders have depth with Reece and Murray, a second-year pro with great potential but plenty to prove.

Camp competition: Jones-Drew and McFadden are, technically speaking anyway, competing for a starting job this summer. Realistically both players will get carries during the season in an effort to increase health and effectiveness for both veterans. In camp, the primary goal will be keeping those guys healthy. Reece and Olawale seem set to make the team. … The Raiders kept five backs on the 53-man roster, leaving several quality options for that fifth spot. Murray should have an inside track, though offensive coordinator Greg Olson spoke highly of Sheets last month. Stewart will also fight for a spot and could be an option as a special teams player.