The 2015 season was a year of firsts for the Oakland Raiders; off the field it was the first year Jack Del Rio was at the helm of the team, and on the field it was the first season a variety of players stepped into starting roles for the Silver and Black.
Running back Latavius Murray was one of those players.
After Darren McFadden spent the previous seven seasons handling the bulk of the rushing duties for the Raiders, he and the team parted ways in the offseason, opening the door for Murray to become the primary ball carrier in 2015, and the young back certainly made the most of his opportunity.
Murray started all 16 games for the Raiders in 2015, carrying the ball 266 times and quietly providing a consistent option on the ground for Head Coach Del Rio's offense.
In his first season as the primary ball carrier for the Silver and Black, the bruising back not only found the end zone a career-high six times, he also became the first Raider to rush for 1,000 yards since McFadden rushed for 1,157 in 2010, and also finished the season ranked sixth in the NFL in total rushing yards with 1,066 yards, being named a Pro Bowl alternate in the process.
"It's very special," said Murray after reaching the 1,000-yard mark. "Obviously it means a lot. It shows how we've been able to move the ball, especially this year. I'm pretty excited."
2015 marked his first extended playing time since he entered the league in 2013, and Murray more than demonstrated that he has the ability to handle the brunt of the work, but unfortunately for the Raiders' offense, a complement to Murray's bruising, north-to-south-running-style never emerged.
The team signed running back Roy Helu, Jr., in the offseason to hopefully serve as the third-down back, but Helu appeared in just nine games for the Raiders, carrying the ball 17 times.
Yes, Murray appears poised to be the primary back of the future for the Raiders, but in today's NFL it's important to have multiple backs on the roster to provide a change of pace, and give the bell cow a breather from time to time.
While that role didn't materialize this season, heading into 2016 it'll be an important void to fill as the Raiders try to continue their ascent back into the playoff conversation.
General Manager Reggie McKenzie and Head Coach Del Rio will have several areas on the roster that will need to be solidified this offseason, but they can both take solace in the fact that a bell cow running back is not one they will have to address.
"I have to continue to do the things I need to do so I'm producing, I'm playing my best," Murray said. "To be honest, because like I said, I felt that I left so much out there. To me, it didn't feel like a 1,000-yard season. There were games where there was absolutely nothing. For me, I just know I want to get better. I know that if I can move it 1,000 yards with that kind of season, then there's a lot more out there for me."