With the preseason over and the regular season just around the corner, the Oakland Raiders have a much better idea of what they have than they did at the start of training camp. Things could still look very different in Week 1, but we’ve seen enough of the team in live action to get a good idea of where their strengths and weaknesses are.
Offensively, most of the attention is going to the new starting quarterback, Derek Carr. But the strengths are clearly their running backs and, to a lesser degree, their offensive linemen.
The Raiders will carry three running backs and two fullbacks. Both Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden (MJD and DMC) have looked better than most expected. Both have shown that they still have the burst of speed necessary to be impact making running backs in the NFL, even if there are still questions about just how much they have left in the tank.
Behind them, Latavius Murray, a second-year player who spent his entire rookie season on the injured reserve, may have been one of the most impressive players on the entire roster this preseason. Murray will add depth as well as contribute in the return game and has already shown enough talent to make many believe that he is the heir apparent at the running back position. He has a rare combination of size and speed that makes him a handful for linebackers and corners alike. Expect him to get his fair share of touches as the third back and possibly even move up the depth chart before the season is over.
At fullback, the Raiders will be one of the few, if not the only NFL team to carry two fullbacks into the regular season. But Marcel Reece and Jamize Olawale are not your ordinary fullbacks. They can both pave the way for the run game with powerful lead blocking, but both are deceivingly athletic and cause serious mismatches in the passing game.
After years and years of fielding some of the worst offensive line groups in the entire NFL, the Raiders spent significant time and money this offseason upgrading the unit. But at the start of the preseason they looked absolutely horrific. They were unable to create running lanes for the backs and constantly allowed pressure on whomever was trying to survey the field from the pocket. As the preseason progressed, the unit began to gel and eventually they were playing at a level much closer to what was expected earlier this summer. With a little more time, the Raiders hope this unit will develop into the collective monster they hoped it would be. But even as they stand now, they represent one of the strongest units on offense.