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Coach Gruden offers high praise for recent play of running back Jalen Richard

Jalen Richard probably slept very well Sunday night.

Not only did the Oakland Raiders earn a hard-fought, 23-21 road win over the Arizona Cardinals, but the third-year back was busy from whistle to whistle.

Richard not only led the team in rushing yards (61), but as has become the norm in 2018, he contributed heavily in the passing game as well, hauling in three catches for 32 yards.

Oh, I forgot to mention that he was also called upon in relief to field a pair of punts while usual returner Dwayne Harris was dealing with some in-game ailments.

“He [Richard] had to return punts and then he had to go get us peanuts and snacks upstairs after the game,” Head Coach Jon Gruden joked Monday. “He did it all for us. He got the concessions. He is a helluva player, a great competitor and he has really come on as an every-down back, not just a third-down back. There is not much he can’t do for us.”

And for the player that Gruden said was likely the team’s Most Valuable Player through 11 weeks, Richard has unquestionably flashed his versatility and made himself an integral part of the Raiders offense.

Without the services of Marshawn Lynch the past four games, Richard – as well as Doug Martin and DeAndré Washington – has seen an increase in his responsibilities in the rushing attack, and give No. 30 credit, he’s made the most of his chances.

“When guys go down, people have to step up,” Derek Carr said. “Depth, how important that is to continue to sustain, to be able to play well, and we have two good backs that came in, they [Richard and Washington] were great on their assignments. Blitz pickup was awesome, and so, yeah, they played really well.”

Richard in particular has played really well in 2018.

Not only is he averaging an impressive 4.1 yards per carry without the benefit of getting the football consistently – the game against the Cardinals aside – but his 432 receiving yards are not only 176 yards more than his previous career high, but it’s a number that’s also good enough to rank him second on the Raiders’ roster, behind just tight end Jared Cook.

It’s that versatility – excelling both as a rusher and as a receiving option – that has turned Richard into one of the most obvious bright spots of 2018 for Coach Gruden’s squad.

“He’s a mean guy, tough guy when the game starts,” Gruden said of Richard. “Hard to tackle. He is a Charlie Garner type back. He reminds me a lot of Garner, if you all remember him? He’s a guy that I think someday could run for 1,000 yards and catch 1,000 yards worth of passes. He’s a guy we can line up in the slot, we can line him up out wide. He might not be the biggest back, but he plays big. He’s very quick and decisive, and he’s got great vision.”

The Raiders have six games left on the schedule, and what they do in those games remains to be seen, but if Richard keeps up his current production, 2018 will be a career year for the versatile running back.

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