Running Back Latavius Murray
Negative: the Oakland Raiders lost their home opener Sunday afternoon, falling to the Atlanta Falcons 35-28 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
Positive: the offense has now looked strong in back-to-back games, particularly the offensive line, and the three-headed monster of running backs that the team now employs.
Now, Head Coach Jack Del Rio understandably had no interest in talking about the positives from Sunday's loss following the game, but it's certainly worth noting that through two weeks, the Raiders rushing attack ranks second in the NFL (161.0 yards per game), behind just the Carolina Panthers (166.5 yards per game).
Key to the that success have been a pair of rookies, DeAndré Washington and Jalen Richard, who have provided a much-needed complement to incumbent starter Latavius Murray.
Last season Murray found ample success in his first year as a starter, eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark, and earning his first trip to the Pro Bowl, but aside from his productivity, the team was unable to find any type of complementary rushing attack, which Washington and Richard now provide.
"We all do things differently, and we all have our strengths," said Richard. "Like I always say, the offensive staff does a great job of getting us in those positions that broadcast our strengths. That's why it comes out, and it seems like we haven't skipped a beat, because we'll have different play selections where my strength is best at, and we'll have a big run, because that's my strength, or they'll have DeAndré in a certain play that shows his strength, and he makes a big run because that's his strength. That's what he does, and the same thing with Latavius, and [fullback] Jamize [Olawale] as well."
The trio of running backs has certainly been effective through the first portion of the season, not only on the ground, but in pass protection as well, as the offense has surrendered just one sack through the two first two weeks of the regular season.
"We take pride in that," Richard said. "We're always going to protect the quarterback. That's the number one goal. The more we can keep him off the ground, the healthier he'll be, and the better our offense is with him out there. As far as the running backs room, that's always something that we pride ourselves on, is making sure nobody hits our quarterback, and I know the o-line has that same pride too."
Murray currently leads the running back corps with 22 carries, with Richard and Washington chipping in with 10 and 11 respectively, but whoever has been carrying the ball, there doesn't seem to be any type of dropoff in production, and Washington believes the reason for that is simple.
It's all about preparation.
"I think guys just being ready whenever their number gets called," Washington said. "No matter what stage of the game it is, just be ready."
Head Coach Jack Del Rio has seen that preparation pay off for the trio of running backs, and he believes the approach of getting all three of them touches early and often pays dividends for the team as a whole.
"We like our guys, we have a good group, and we're playing them all," Del Rio explained. "I think certainly, if you're not getting it 30 or 40 times, you better make those 15 or so carries you get, make them work. I think there's maybe a little heightened urgency there."
As far as putting Sunday's loss behind them, and shifting the focus fully to the Tennessee Titans, Washington believes the Silver and Black are ready to do just that.
"I think we have a great group of leaders on this team," Washington said. "After we watch that film, we're going to move on. I think we'll be fine, and another good week of practice, and we'll get ready for Tennessee."