Running Back Jalen Richard
Heading into the Oakland Raiders Week 3 Preseason clash against the Tennessee Titans at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, a lot of attention had been focused on rookie running backs Jalen Richard and DeAndré Washington. Through training camp and preseason, both have enjoyed impressive spurts, providing the team with an additional burst out of the backfield.
The Silver and Black gave Richard a chance after going unselected in the 2016 NFL Draft, and he impressed the team during a tryout at Rookie Minicamp. Since earning his opportunity, the rookie has flashed his athleticism and speed. In his NFL debut, Richard appeared eager and ready to contribute for the squad, after missing the previous two weeks of preseason due to a knee injury.
Special teams coordinator Brad Seely incorporated him into the game immediately, placing him as the team's kick returner to open the first drive for the Raiders. Richard returned the kickoff 38-yards, giving the offense room to work and get the ball rolling.
"To start the game like that on the kick return felt real good," said Richard. "That was one of the things that helped me continue with my confidence throughout the game."
On the evening, he rushed the ball seven times and averaged exactly five yards per carry. Although it's a small sample size, it's still impressive for an NFL debut. Richard was mixed in primarily with the first team, and fit in with unit effectively.
Fellow rookie running back Washington didn't disappoint in his performance Saturday night either, and has been a well-rounded player thus far this preseason. On eight carries against the Titans, he averaged nearly seven-yards a touch, finishing the evening with 6.9 yards per carry.
The former Texas Tech Red Raider was provided with ample opportunity to be an effective piece on special teams, and with the primary offensive unit. To cap off the Raiders opening drive, quarterback Derek Carr connected with Washington over the middle for a six-yard touchdown, showing off Washington's receiving capabilities, a part of his game he's been lauded for since arriving in Silver and Black.
After Saturday's loss Carr shared his thoughts on how Richard and Washington played Saturday night and what he took away.
"I thought that they ran really hard and the game wasn't too fast for them," said Carr. "I didn't think they were too nervous, or anxious, or anything like that. I thought they were just out there playing football and that's great to see."
Between Richard and Washington, the two are similar in stature and skill set. Each of them stand at 5'-8" and are listed at a mere three pounds a part. "I think we rely on the same thing and I think we're different in a lot of ways too," said Washington.
Their height enables them to be elusive behind a towering offensive line and keep opposing defenses on their toes. To the credit of the running back duo, the offensive line has done a formidable job of establishing holes upfront for the backfield. Recent free agent acquisition Kelechi Osemele, has excelled as the team's left guard, and part of what made Washington's 31-yard burst successful was due to the fact Osemele carved out a lane for him.
As a whole the offensive line has battled in the trenches through the team's first three preseason games. The offense has benefitted from the effort from players like Osemele, and Washington is certainly grateful. "Definitely, just to be able to mention those guys [the offensive line] and go up against their ones was a good feeling," said Washington.
Richard and Washington have both earned the respect of their peers and head coaches through training camp and preseason. After the game Head Coach Jack Del Rio shared his thoughts on how the two have been performing. "I thought they both ran hard, ran with vision. They make people miss, so I was pleased," noted Del Rio. "Pleased with both of them really. They were pretty good in the returning game as well."
With the final game of the preseason scheduled against the Seattle Seahawks, Richard and Washington will face a stacked defensive front. There's no denying the success of the running back tandem Saturday night, but it'll be interesting to see how they perform at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum next Thursday.