Last season, the Raiders ran their way to an 8-8 record, using Tom Cable's zone-rush attack to gain 155.9 yards per game on the ground. RBs Darren McFadden and Michael Bush each had breakout campaigns, as the team had the second-best running game in the league.
Cable was fired in the offseason and replaced as head coach by former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. While the Xs-and-Os of the playbook are slightly altered, the team still will have a run-first mentality. Jackson wants the players to be more aggressive, prodding them to bully opposing defenders with physical play. In terms of the rushing attack, that means finding a hole and hitting it, not waiting to determine where in the line a crease will emerge.
Besides the coaching adjustment, another change in the offense is that a third running back — rookie Taiwan Jones — will be part of the backfield rotation. FB Marcel Reece told PFW that the three backs all have different styles, but that as their lead blocker, he believes that the addition of Jones makes the running game much more dangerous.
"Darren has so many different talents as far as a runner goes," Reece said. "It just depends on the run, sometimes he wants to go inside, sometimes he wants to go outside. And whenever that run is called, we just have that chemistry where we feel each other, and I just do the best of my abilities to give him a chance to get to the second level.
"Mike is the type of guy, where, I know Mike will get behind and once he gets his foot in the ground, there's no one man who's going to tackle (him).
"And Taiwan's a young guy, so he and I are getting more used to each other, a little more comfortable. Taiwan can fly, he's lightning fast, which everyone knows about him, but he's a tough runner too. Taiwan's the type of guy that I know once he gets the ball in his hands, he only runs at one speed and that's 100 percent all out."
The fullback said despite the impressive numbers of a year ago, the running game still has room for improvement. Having a third back like Jones, which will keep McFadden and Bush fresh, is expected to bolster the attack.
"I guess the only place to go from two is number one," Reece said. "That's always our goal, we want to be the best."
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