The Oakland Raiders added a key cog to the running back mix this offseason when they signed Maurice Jones-Drew. Jones Drew will compete with Darren McFadden for the starting job. The running back position will be one of the most hotly contested on the roster because every spot, from starter to making the roster, will be contested.
The Raiders have made it clear that they are going to use a running back by committee approach in 2014. If that is the case, the player that wins the starting role will not be as important as who receives the carries during the game. Both McFadden and Jones-Drew are battling in training camp for the bulk of the carries. Both are coming off down years and have a chip on their shoulder. The Raiders ran the ball well last season averaging 125 yards per game. With an improved offensive line, this is an integral part of the Raiders offensive success.
Another factor in the running back competition will be Latavius Murray. Murray missed all of last season with an ankle injury but returned this offseason and has made an impression. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson said he expected "big things" from Murray. Murray is competing to earn carries behind Jones-Drew and McFadden. He is a different back because of his size at 6-3, 225 pounds. He still needs to learn and develop, especially after missing his rookie season, but Murray has a chance to involve himself heavily in this competition.
Because of the strength and depth at other positions, the Raiders will probably only keep three running backs. That has been the case in both 2012 and 2013. That isn't good news for Kory Sheets, Jeremy Stewart, and George Atkinson III. This is where the competition in training camp really heats up. If Atkinson can show well, the Raiders can place him on the practice squad. Stewart has been a nice piece for the Raiders on special teams the past two seasons. He has shown some potential, but he is going to have to take his game to the next level in order to be part of the Raiders' plans in 2014. Sheets is a former Canadian Football League Grey Cup MVP, who was signed by the Raiders this offseason. He will also need a huge training camp to make Oakland's 53-man roster.
This will be one of the most interesting competitions to watch during training camp. No position or role is set in stone. The competition will be for the starting role, carries, and roster spots.
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