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Marcel Reece has 442 total yards of offense (200 rush, 242 receiving) and four touchdowns this season. (AP)
Marcel Reece won’t be the Raiders feature back on Sunday, despite a unique ability to do so. The veteran fullback has excelled in every start as primary ball carrier, exceeding 100 yards total offense in four of five starts.
Reece was never better against the New York Jets, when he had a career-best 123 rushing yards and 161 yards total offense. That deserves an encore he won’t get, because Rashad Jennings is healthy again after missing a game with concussion-like symptoms.
Jennings will take the bulk of the carries, but Reece has earned more than the 3.7 touches he received before Jets loss. Whether he gets them or not is another matter.
Reece has made himself harder to ignore, especially after a 63-yard touchdown that dispelled any notion that he doesn’t have breakaway speed.
Even after all Reece has done, primary tailback isn’t a realistic option.
“I don’t know. I mean, when he’s gone in the game he’s had some success,” Allen said. “He’s a pretty patient runner, has pretty decent vision. I thought he did a great job on the long run of being able to hit the hole and then split the seam. I don’t know. He’s probably not a guy with that explosive breakaway type of speed, but nobody was catching him. So when we’ve called on him to be a running back he’s gone in and performed admirably.”
That’s not exactly a vote of confidence, not exactly proof that he’ll succeed Darren McFadden or possibly accent Jennings next season. The Raiders simply aren’t convinced he can handle a full carry load. They’d also like to continue to use the converted receiver as a jack-of-all-trades, as a blocker and rusher and pass catcher.
“We want to keep being able to get him the ball in a variety of different ways,” Allen said. “Obviously we’ll see how things go with the injury situation with Rashad Jennings and [Darren] McFadden and Jeremy Stewart. We’ll see what weapons we’ll have available, and we’ll try to put all those guys in a position to have success.”
The Raiders paid Reece $12.45 million to be an active playmaker, but coordinator Greg Olson has had a tough time getting Reece enough touches to be effective. Tailback seems an easy position for Reece to man, especially without a Jennings or Reece under contract next year, but the veteran doesn’t mind moving around.
“Honestly, I don’t think about it,” Reece said. “I tell these young guys all the time, the two initials next to your name on the roster mean nothing. I don’t worry about the position. I worry about making plays and helping this team win. Whatever, my team needs me to do, I’m going to do it.”
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Coordinators hope unpredictability works to make Reece hard to cover. His role as decoy isn’t as effective as when he has the ball. He’s been used more often before, totaling 111 touches in 2012. This season, Reece has just 66. Reece is productive when he has more touches granted by fullback Jamize Olawale’s blocking ability. But, with Jennings running strong when healthy, the Raider prefer to revert Reece to his old role.
“Reece is a heck of a player,” Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson said. “We have a lot of respect for him. He’s a guy that plays all over the field. He’s a guy that can get on a linebacker or a safety and actually be a mismatch for them. He’s a fullback/running back/receiver, a tight end even. He kind of does it all. You’ve got to know where ‘45’ is because if you look up and he’s on a cornerback, the cornerback knows that he is not a decoy, the ball can come to him.”