The Oakland Raiders were supposed to be a run-first team. Instead, they ran for 67 yards against the Patriots … and that represented a big step forward. The Raiders gained more yards on the ground in Week 2, but quarterback Derek Carr accounted for more than half of those yards and one of his runs accounted for 90% of his rushing yards. At least the Raiders were able to create manageable third down situations thanks to their run game on first and second down in New England.
But with the lack of receiving threats, the Raiders cannot win many games by relying on their passing attack as much as they have in the first three weeks of the season. So far, the Raiders have dropped back to pass on over 65% of their offensive snaps. That kind of ratio will never work for this team.
What should the Raiders do to turn things around?
Switch up the personnel
First, they need to give third-stringer Latavius Murray more of a shot. So far this season, he has only been given four handoffs. With the offensive line not opening up big holes, both Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden have shown they’re not capable of turning nothing into something the way the team needs. Neither one is going to pull a Marshawn Lynch and create yards the tough way and neither has shown the elusiveness to break things outside when there is nothing available going up the gut. Murray is a big back with speed who’s capable of moving piles forward for hard-earned yards, but also has the speed to hit the corner for a big gain, dragging defensive backs along with him.
They should also line up Marcel Reece at running back more often. The Pro Bowl fullback has shown in the past that he is capable of earning tough yards when guys like Darren McFadden are not. The offensive line isn’t opening holes, so the Raiders need some big-bodied backs who can punish defensive lines by gaining tough yards early in the game in order to open up the run game in the second half. Neither MJD nor McFadden can do that. Why not see if Murray and Reece can?
Run some plays to the outside
The Raiders have had 53 run attempts so far this season — according to Pro Football Focus, only 14 of those plays have been outside run plays. On those 14 plays, they have gained 67 yards and have an average of nearly 4.8 yards per carry. On runs that are not to the outside, the Raiders have 39 attempts for 129 yards and are averaging almost a full yard and a half less at 3.3 yards per carry.
The Raiders are not getting a push up front, which is why they are having little to no success getting yards that way. But when they run the ball to the outside, they have seen more success. And yet, they’ve only ran the ball to the outside a fraction of the time. The run game is simply not working and to do the same thing over and over again is not going to fix that. The Raiders need to open up the playbook when it comes to their rushing attack and start mixing things up.