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Oakland Raiders' Position Battles: Running Backs

Earlier this week we took a look at the big fellas along the Oakland Raiders offensive line, and so today, we’re going to break down the guys they’ll be creating holes for up front, the running backs.

Once again led by Marshawn Lynch, the Silver and Black’s top three rushers from 2017 are back in the mix this year, although with a new position coach, and some new faces, the group will no doubt have a different feel in 2018.

Head Coach Jon Gruden hasn’t kept it a secret, he wants to pound the rock and dominate the line of scrimmage offensively. Let’s take a look at the guys that will be doing just that for him this season.

*Keith Smith and Ryan Yurachek, who are both listed as fullbacks, are included in this Position Battle.

Familiar Faces:

Marshawn Lynch

Jalen Richard

DeAndré Washington

New Guys:

Doug Martin

Keith Smith

Ryan Yurachek

Chris Warren

Overview: So, as we stated earlier, the top three rushers for the Silver and Black (Lynch, Richard and Washington) from a year ago are all back in 2018, but besides that trio, the position group has – like the rest of the roster – undergone a bit of a makeover.

After trading long-time fullback Jamize Olawale to the Dallas Cowboys, and then acquiring Keith Smith in free agency, the two squads essentially swapped fullbacks, but Smith isn’t the only new face in the Raiders’ running backs room.

Gruden and General Manager Reggie McKenzie made headlines this March, signing veteran running back Doug Martin, giving the former All-Pro another shot, while also bringing him closer to home in the process.

With a pair of 1,000-yard seasons under his belt, the Stockton, Calif., native no doubt has the pedigree to be a productive back, and we’ll see early on if a fresh start will provide positive dividends for Martin.

Although they’re still rather unknown entities at this point, both Yurachek and Warren are intriguing prospects, but they’ll have to put together quality training camps to stick around.

Running Backs Coach Jemal Singleton has a ton of talent in his group this year, and watching to see how he harnesses it will be an exciting development to keep an eye on.

Battle to Watch:

Eddie Paskal: Truth be told, the battle to be the No. 2 running back on the Raiders’ depth chart is one of the training camp battles I’m most looking forward to see.

If all goes to plan – and we have no reason to think that it won’t – Marshawn Lynch will once again be the No. 1 guy for the Raiders, and as such, he’ll handle the bulk of the team’s rushing duties.

That being said, as much of a Beast – full pun intended – as Lynch is, the man is 32 years old, and it’ll be good news for all parties involved if his legs can remain fresh for the final quarter of the season.

Not only that, the way the NFL is nowadays, the best, most dynamic offenses have a plethora of dudes who can run the ball, so seeing who gets the majority of reps behind Lynch is something I’ll be keyed in on.

Just for reference, Jalen Richard carried the ball 56 times for 275 yards last year, while DeAndré Washington had 57 carries for 153 yards.

While that tandem will certainly figure heavily into the mix, let’s also not forget about Doug Martin. The former Tampa Bay Buccaneer comes into Training Camp 2018 on the heels of a really nice Offseason Workout Program, and with something to prove in 2018, he’s somebody I’m fired up to watch in Napa.

Kyle Martin: The Beast has the starting job locked up, but it’s open competition behind him. Jon Gruden and Reggie McKenzie brought in another veteran running back this offseason, signing Doug Martin in free agency. Martin’s showed throughout Organized Team Activities that he’s still got some fuel left in the tank, and he very well could earn the backup spot; however, I think it’s going to be a three-way race through Training Camp.

Jalen Richard and DeAndré Washington have contributed some quality minutes over the last two years, racking up a combined 10 touchdowns, 1,386 rushing yards, and 762 receiving yards. This is a new coaching staff though, and the backfield is a little more crowded now. Richard and Washington both have experience on special teams, which obviously plays in their favor, but one of them will need to set themselves apart during camp.

Keep an eye on the pair of third-year pros.

Storyline to Follow:

EP: Speaking of Mr. Martin, seeing how he fares in training camp, and 2018 in general, is something I’m really excited to see unfold.

I know that I literally just said that Martin had a really strong Offseason Workout Program, and he did, but as is the case with pretty much everyone on the roster, it’s hard to get an accurate gauge of what a guy really looks like until the pads come on.

Look, if you’re an NFL fan, you’re well aware of what Martin brings to the table, but you also probably know that the past two seasons haven’t been his best.

We’ve seen time and time again that a fresh start, in a new place, has the ability to drastically alter the course of a player’s career, and here’s to hoping that is indeed the case for the two-time Pro Bowler.

A resurgent Doug Martin would certainly do a ton to make an already-potent Raiders offense all the more dynamic.

KM: I’m curious to see how Gruden will utilize Marshawn Lynch this season.

At his introductory press conference, Gruden expressed his excitement to work with Beast Mode. The pairing seems like a match made in heaven, considering Gruden’s preference for a physical brand of offense, and Lynch’s violent running style. The way the offense is built, with a dominant offensive line, and powerful tight ends who excel at blocking, the Raiders are going to play smash-mouth football, and Lynch will be the key ingredient.

Last season, No. 24 was one of the best running backs in football during the second half of the season, and I think he can continue to show the brute force he’s demonstrated for years. The way Gruden maximizes his talent will be interesting.

Keep an Eye on…

EP: Let’s shower the fullbacks with a little love, shall we?

While Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin, and Co., will deservedly get a lot of attention, to be quite honest with you, Keith Smith is a guy that I’m very much looking forward to seeing throughout training camp.

Not only is fullback one of the most criminally underrated positions in all football, but Smith will likely have even more responsibility than usual, particularly if Gruden wants to dominate the line of scrimmage like he has said is a priority.

Not only will Smith get some run actually carrying the ball, but he’ll almost assuredly play a big role on special teams, yet another criminally underrated aspect of the game.

Long story short, Smith can and will do a lot of good things in 2018, and training camp will be our first chance to see exactly how that manifests itself.

KM: Doug Martin.

The former Pro Bowler and First-Team All-Pro has put together some impressive seasons during his six seasons in the NFL, and looks ready to have another productive season in 2018. During Mandatory Minicamp, Martin looked explosive, showing off his burst while hitting the hole. The Bay Area native rushed for 406 yards with three touchdowns last season, but like I said previously, this is Lynch’s show; however, Martin can provide some quality playing time trading off with his teammate.

In the early going Martin has opened eyes, we’ll see if he can keep it going when the pads come on later this month in Napa.

MORE POSITION BATTLES:

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