The Oakland Raiders are coming off of a bye week and now must prepare to take on a resurgent Pittsburgh Steelers team. In their last game, the Raiders’ offense struggled to get anything moving against a very tough Kansas City Chiefs defensive unit. One of the missing pieces to the Raiders’ offensive attack has been Pro Bowl fullback Marcel Reece.
Reece had just a single touch in the loss to the Chiefs with a nine yard reception. The Raiders’ versatile weapon has been kept quiet for most of the season, but how can the Raiders get Reece more involved in the offense.
It is obvious that the Raiders need to get Reece involved in the offense. In the Raiders two wins, Reece has 12 total touches. Reece has nine carries for 47 yards and a touchdown, while adding three receptions for 25 yards. In their four losses, Reece has seven total touches and they are all receptions for 61 yards.
Just looking at the raw statistics it is apparent that getting Reece involved is the key to the Raiders moving the ball. Reece averages six touches per game in wins, while averaging just under two touches per game in losses. Reece is a dynamic playmaker with a unique blend of size, speed, and athleticism, so getting the ball into his hands would be ideal. Ideally, Reece should be getting 10 to 15 touches per game. How can the Raiders get him the amount of touches that he needs without disrupting the flow of their offense?
The simplest way to getting Reece more touches would be just handing the ball off to him in the running game. Reece has found success in the running game during his career with 552 yards on 115 attempts, which comes out to 4.8 yards per attempt. Why is Reece not a more prominent figure in the run game with his track record of success? Here is offensive coordinator Greg Olsen on that subject:
“Again, unless you’re handing [Reece] the football, which we have to monitor what we’re doing because we have to make sure that Darren McFadden is getting enough touches, and with Marcel it’s changed a little bit this year because of the quarterback position.”
The Raiders offensive scheme change to include more read-option to work with Terrelle Pryor’s unique skill set has taken away the limited carries that could have gone to Reece. Also, the Raiders have a highly capable backup running back in Rashad Jennings. Jennings is much more accomplished than what the Raiders have featured in the past and they feel more comfortable giving him the secondary carries.
The Raiders average nearly 28 rushes per game, with Pryor and McFadden taking nearly 20 of those touches. That leaves Jennings and Reece to fight for those remaining eight carries, with Jennings getting the nod with his experience as a tailback.
The other way to get the ball in his hands would be to feature him in the passing game. It seems simple to run routes that feature him as the go-to receiver, but it does not always work out that way. Coverages and pressure can disrupt what a team wants to do in the passing game. Lately, the Raiders have had problems keeping opposing pass rushers out of the backfield, which has forced Pryor to go to his hot reads or to tuck it and run.
Getting Reece out in routes on linebackers seems like the ideal way to get him involved in the passing game is the best, but there is a better and more simple way. The Raiders need to use Reece in the screen game more often. The Raiders do not seem to utilize traditional screen passes to running backs as much as they should.
The screen game seems like the best place to utilize Reece in the passing game. It will allow him to use his athleticism in the open field with blockers out in front. It will also work like getting Reece involved in the run game, as screen passes are like extended hand offs with blockers out in front of the ball carrier.
The Raiders should also be more dynamic in how they line up Reece. They should like at Reece as more of a hybrid H-back, that more teams are utilizing more often. Reece is talented enough to be used in multiple positions, such as at full back, tight end, or as a receiver split out. Moving Reece around could get him better match-ups in coverage and create ways to utilize his unique skills.
The idea is simple, the Raiders need to get Reece more heavily involved in the offense. He has been highly effective in his limited touches and been a key component in the offense during the Raiders’ victories this season. The Raiders need to get him involved in not only the passing game, but in the running game. He is getting paid to be vital part of the offense and now it is up to the coaches to get him involved as a vital part of the offense.