The Oakland Raiders have a veritable Swiss army knife in fullback Marcel Reece. Reece went undrafted in the 2008 NFL draft and signed on with the Miami Dolphins practice squad. He joined the Raiders in that offseason, as they were intrigued by his combination of size and speed. Ultimately, the Raiders and Reece decided on the fullback position would be the best fit for his unique skill set. Reece would take over at the full time starter in 2010 and would be named to his first Pro Bowl team in 2013.
Reece is a versatile weapon for the Raiders offense who fills a variety of roles. The Raiders line up Reece as fullback/tight end hybrid, as a slot receiver, and as a tail back. During his career, Reece has 111 receptions for 1,204 receiving yards and seven receiving touchdowns, while adding 108 carries for 520 yards and two touchdowns in his career. Reece averages nearly 8 yards per touch, while also providing solid run blocking and blitz pick up.
Last season, Reece had a breakout season with 52 receptions for 496 receiving yards and one touchdown and 59 carries for 271 rushing yards. Reece ranked third on the Raiders in yards from scrimmage with 767 yards on 111 carries. He was only 200 yards short from the team leader in Darren McFadden, but he had nearly 150 less touches than McFadden. Reece’s 6.9 yards per touch was nearly double that of McFadden’s 3.7 yards per touch. Reece’s impressive season was capped off with his first Pro Bowl selection, as the team’s lone representative.
This season, Reece has been invisible through the first three games of the season. Reece had a mini-breakthrough last week with four receptions for 45 yards in the Monday night loss to the Broncos. The four touches were more than what Reece had collected in the first two weeks combined. Overall, Reece has five receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown, while adding two carries for 15 yards and a touchdown.
The Raiders have failed to fully implement Reece into their offense this season, as he has just seven touches. The Raiders need to find a way to get the ball into his hands. The Raiders recently signed Reece to a three-year extension worth more than $13 million and $7.2 million of that is guaranteed, which shows that had big plans for Reece in their offensive schemes.
It is not really evident as to why the Raiders have failed to get Reece the touches he needs. General Manager Reggie McKenzie offered this explanation for Reece’s lack of touches:
“Some of that is stuff they have as a receiver (so) we have to find him, too. At times he can be covered. At times, when it’s designed to go to him, for whatever reason he doesn’t get it his way. That falls on a little bit of everybody. But he’s definitely a part of the offense now. We’ll get him the ball.”
The Raiders know that they have to get him involved into the game plan more prominently, but they can’t sacrifice their current offensive flow to force feed him the ball. Greg Olsen offered his insights on to how to get Reece more involved:
“You can hand him the ball. Obviously his first carry last week was a touchdown, so maybe I need to hand him the ball more. The one way you can ensure that a guy gets touches is to hand him the football. We’ll look at that. He’s also obviously a threat out in space, as a match up issue. We look at those things and we make sure he’s involved in the progression.”
That is the perfect way to get the ball in his hands. The Raiders should get Reece more involved as a ball carrier. Reece averages 4.8 yards per carry over his career and he would be an excellent change of pace to McFadden. McFadden has not been a particularly efficient runner, minus a 129 yard outburst against the lowly Jaguars. Reece could be used to soften up the interior of the defense, which could open some holes along the line.
The Raiders would be better served getting Reece used in the passing game, as well. Reece’s ability in the open field would be perfect in the screen game. Getting him into open space with blockers in front is an easy way to gain bigger chunks of yards.
The Raiders are missing out on a key cog of their offense, and they need to get it more touches. Reece is turning into one of the most dynamic fullbacks in the league and the Raiders need to get him the ball and let him use his athletic gifts. With the porous Redskins defense coming up, it presents a perfect opportunity to get their multi-tool implemented back into the game plan.