Dec 8, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray (34) intercepts a pass by New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (not shown) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland Raiders: Keep Watch on Latavius Murray

If playing defense will be the focus of the 2014 Oakland Raiders, they will need a solid ground game.  Could Latavius Murray emerge as their go-to guy?

Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew have big red flags

Running the ball is a great way to control the flow of an NFL game, especially for a team that is trying to work in a new quarterback and play with a defensive mentality.  It controls the clock, wears defenses down and sets up the possibility of big plays off play action.  This is the idea the Oakland Raiders have in mind, which is why they carefully spent their money in free agency to bring back Darren McFadden and add veteran Maurice Jones-Drew.

Both have had success in the past and hopes are high the two of them sharing carries can do great things for Oakland.  At the same time there is risk involved.  McFadden has never completed a full season as a pro, dealing with a multitude of injuries.  Jones-Drew lost a step following his own season-ending injury and contemplated retirement before the Raiders came calling.  Neither has any recent game tape to suggest they have the capacity to carry an offense on their back.

Murray has talent and surprise on his side this NFL season

Such situations offer prime opportunity for younger players to seize the moment, especially at a position that demands fresh bodies.  One name that has flown deep under the radar for over a year now is Latavius Murray.  The Oakland Raiders acquired the Central Florida product in the 6th round of the NFL draft last year.  Nobody really got to see what he could do as he landed on injured reserved before he could even reach the regular season.  It overshadows the impressive repertoire the young man has.

Not only is Murray a rangy 6’3″, which is very tall for a running back, he displayed a remarkable blend of speed and strength at the scouting combine.  That too reflected in his play as he ran for 1,106 yards and received for 237 more his final year for the Knights, scoring 19 touchdowns.  If not for a freak ankle injury he had a chance to outpace Rashad Jennings as the backup to McFadden last year.  Jennings is gone now, and Murray is healthy.

If anybody can emerge to elevate the Raiders offense, watch out for this 24-year old.

Tags: Darren McFadden Latavius Murray Maurice Jones-Drew NFL Oakland Raiders

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