The Oakland Raiders have had a busy off-season so far, hiring Jon Gruden as head coach, and filling the coaching staff. The team figures to continue being busy with a lot of personnel decisions to be made. Gruden recently shared his views on the roster. “There’s some people in place, but we’ve got a number of issues that are concerning right now and we’re focusing on them.”
Oakland Raiders Running Back Options Heading Into 2018
One of the positions of concern is at running back. Last year’s starter, Marshawn Lynch, will be 32 when the season begins. With Lynch’s punishing running style how long can the Raiders rely on him?
This article focuses on the running back options for the Raiders heading into the 2018 NFL season.
Keep Marshawn Lynch
While the offense played poorly last year, not much blame can be put on Lynch. Lynch actually played well, rushing for 891 yards on 207 attempts at an average of 4.3 yards per carry. Lynch also scored seven touchdowns. All this behind an offensive line that inexplicably struggled.
Gruden seems to want Lynch to return. “Right now, he’s our leading ball carrier. He’s our back, and we’re counting on him. Hopefully, we get an opportunity to work together.” If Lynch does return, he would be reuniting with offensive line coach Tom Cable. Cable is known for running the zone blocking scheme, having run it in Oakland and in Seattle the past seven years. This is a scheme that Lynch excels in as well. Gruden recently said though that hiring Cable does not necessarily mean the Raiders will be a zone blocking team this season.
Lean More on Elijah Hood
Elijah Hood was a seventh-round draft pick of the Raiders last year. Hood is similar to Lynch in both stature and running style. Both are listed as being 5’11”, but Hood weighs in at 220 lbs compared to Lynch at 215.
Hood spent most of 2017 on the Raiders practice squad, but if Lynch chooses to retire again, the Raiders could lean on Hood to be the workhorse. The bruising Hood actually patterns his game after Lynch and was brought to tears when he was drafted to be Lynch’s teammate. Was Hood drafted to be groomed as Lynch’s successor?
Sign Le’Veon Bell in Free Agency
There will be a lot of available running backs in free agency. The list includes some notable names such as Dion Lewis, Jerick McKinnon, Frank Gore, and Carlos Hyde. Another back rumored to be released is DeMarco Murray. No name is bigger though than the Pittsburgh Steelers Le’Veon Bell.
Signing Bell won’t be easy. He is rumored to be asking for $15 million per year on a long-term deal, which is almost double that of other top paid running backs such as Devonta Freeman ($8.25 million). The Steelers have also expressed interest in re-signing him.
There is no doubt that Bell is a great player. He is just 26 years old and has rushed for over 5,000 yards and scored 35 touchdowns during his five-year career. But Bell has already suffered a significant injury to his legs (torn MCL/PCL in 2015) and underwent surgery on his core in 2016. He has also served multiple suspensions for substance abuse violations, and his production has started to decline. Bell also had a heavy workload last year, leading the league with 321 rushing attempts. All this could mean that his days as a premier player at that position could be nearing the end.
Draft Saquon Barkley
The Raiders draft either ninth or tenth in the first round depending on a coin flip with the San Francisco 49ers. There is no guarantee that Saquon Barkley will be available when the Raiders have their pick, but if he is they just have to draft him.
Barkley is one of the most dynamic running backs to enter the NFL in the last decade. He is listed at 5’11”, 223 lbs, and was timed running a 4.33-second 40-yard dash in 2017. Many experts have Barkley as their number one prospect in this year’s NFL Draft.
If Barkley isn’t available when the Raiders pick, they could select other big-name running backs in the later rounds. Such players include Sony Michel, Derrius Guice, Ronald Jones II, and Nick Chubb.
When Jon Gruden was last coach of the Raiders, he leaned heavily on the tandem of Tyrone Wheatley and Charlie Garner. Some could argue that the team already has their Garner in Dwayne Washington (or Jalen Richard), but finding their Wheatley will be a priority this off-season. The team will have many options, and Raider fans will find out soon enough who their workhorse will be.
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