San Francisco 49ers vs. Oakland Raiders: Hyde vs. Murray

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Latavius Murray

Dec 21, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray (28) runs the ball against the Buffalo Bills in the first quarter at Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Murray was originally a sixth round draft pick out of Central Florida for the Raiders in 2013. He spent his first season on injured reserve before being given a chance to actually start in 2014.

With McFadden and Jones-Drew both showing their age, the team inserted Murray in the starting lineup in week 11 hoping to spark the offense. In his starting debut in week 11, Murray was able to gain 112 yards and score two touchdowns on just four carries. He was unable to match that type of production for the rest of the season, but he never saw less than ten carries, proving that the coaching staff had trust in him.

Overall for his first season, Murray totaled: 424 yards and 2 TDs over 82 carries. He had an average of 5.2 yards per game, which if quailed, would’ve tied him for fourth in the NFL. His longest run of the season was a 90 yard run, and that total was tied for the second longest run in the NFL in 2014.

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When Murray was given the starters role in week 11, his carries per game saw a boost. For the last five games of his 2014 campaign, Murray averaged 14.4 carries per game. If Murray were to see 14.4 carries per game for all 15 games he appeared in, he would’ve totaled 216 carries. That mark would’ve ranked him tied for 15th in the NFL.

With an average of 5.2 yards per carry over his 216 carries, Murray would’ve totaled 1,123 yards. That total would’ve made him the ninth best running back in terms of yards in 2014. Add in the touchdowns he would’ve scored, and Murray would’ve been in the discussing as one of the best backs in the league.

The Raiders brought in a new coaching staff featuring head coach, Jack Del Rio, and offensive coordinator, Bill Musgrave. Even with the change, it is unlikely for Murray to see less than 14.4 carries. His 5.2 yards per carry was likely inflated due to his only 82 carries, but he may end up towards the top in yards again if he could still run at a high level.

Looking at Musgrave himself, he has bounced his league as either an offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach spending time with the Panthers, Jaguars, Eagles, Redskins, Vikings, and the University of Virginia. One stat that stands out is that during Musgrave’s tenure in Minnesota from 2011-2013, Adrian Peterson rushed for 2,000 yards. While not all of that can be attributed to Musgrave, that was one of AP’s best season, but some credit should go to Musgrave.

Murray will most likely not run for 2,000 yards. He has Trent Richardson sure to steal some carries from him, and Roy Helu will be a third down passing back taking some snaps. While 2,000 isn’t realistic, it isn’t out of the question that he can run for another 1100+ yards.

Looking more into Murray’s success going forward, one has to look at Murray’s offensive line. While the running back carries the load and holds all the stats, the running back cannot succeed without a strong offensive line pushing defenders away. For the Raiders, the projected starting offensive line consists of, from left to right: LT Donald Penn, LG Gabe Jackson, C Rodney Hudson, RG Khalif Barnes, RT Austin Howard.

Between all those men, they have 866 games under their belt and 336 starts. They have one pro bowl combined with Penn making it in 2010. The line is capable and full of big bodies. No player on the line is shorter than 6’2″ with Howard topping the list at 6’7″. No one on the line weighs less than 291 with Jackson peaking at 336. The line is generally big guys who are underrated by the rest of the NFL, and they will definitely help Murray rather than hurt him.

Speaking of size, Murray has some of his own. Standing at 6’3″, Murray is taller than all the rushers that finished in the top ten in rushing in 2014. The closest player in terms of height is Jeremy Hill of the Bengals who stands 6’2″. Murray’s height is especially impressive because of his 4.4 wheels. The height speed combo is something Murray will use to his advantage for years to come.

The Raiders haven’t had a 1,000 yard rusher since Darren McFadden in 2010. If Murray continues to do what he did in 2014 he could break that streak on his way towards the peak of the top running back discussion.

Next: Carlos Hyde