Oakland Raiders: Crowell would be a solid addition to backfield

MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 04: Isaiah Crowell #20 of the New York Jets carries the ball against the Miami Dolphins in the first half of their game at Hard Rock Stadium on November 4, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 04: Isaiah Crowell #20 of the New York Jets carries the ball against the Miami Dolphins in the first half of their game at Hard Rock Stadium on November 4, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The Oakland Raiders, with a glaring need in the backfield, are set to host veteran running back Isaiah Crowell who would be a solid addition.

Oakland Raiders GM Mike Mayock and HC Jon Gruden have had a busy and splashy offseason thus far. They’ve added some heavyweight firepower to a roster that sorely needed it and have given what was a toothless offense last season some serious fangs.

What’s most impressive is that thus far, they’ve managed to remake this team without shattering the salary cap or mortgaging the future. And best of all, in acquiring the weapons they have, they’ve been able to hold onto their four draft picks within the first 35 picks of the upcoming Draft.

With the addition of Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams, quarterback Derek Carr has a potentially lethal 1-2 punch on the outside. Not many people think very much of free agent addition J.J. Nelson, but not only might he replace Seth Roberts on the roster, with his 4.29 speed, he gives the Raiders a very real vertical threat that defenses will have to account for.

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Losing Jared Cook is going to hurt, given that he was Carr’s favorite target last season. Realistically though, Cook was Carr’s only real threat in the passing game so having Brown, Williams, and Nelson will more than compensate for his loss.

There is also Darren Waller, who showed flashes of being able to step into Cook’s shoes last season. At the very least, he’ll give Carr another big-bodied weapon who, while maybe not his favorite target, he can utilize to make some plays.

While the passing game has undergone an extreme makeover though, the same can’t be said (yet) for the running game.

While it’s entirely possible that either Marshawn Lynch and/or Doug Martin could still return (neither are under contract for 2019), with only Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington the only viable backs on the roster, the Raiders are without a workhorse back for the coming year.

Last season, UDFA Chris Warren III flashed during the preseason, pushed for a roster spot and could very well be in the mix to crack the 53-man roster this year. Gruden and Mayock could also be looking to target a running back in this year’s Draft.

However, that’s a lot of if’s, and’s, and but’s to consider. Looking at what’s on the table right now, it’s evident the Raiders need to upgrade their running game.

That’s where free agent Isaiah Crowell comes in. The Raiders are set to hose the veteran running back and given what’s left on the market, he might be the option best suited for Gruden’s offense.

At five-foot-eleven, 225 pounds, Crowell has the imposing physical stature of Lynch. He doesn’t have the violent and punishing running style of Lynch – but then, who does? It’s what made BeastMode such a unique and special player.

Even still, Crowell has proven that he can be a bruiser and bully his way to the second level of a defense and beyond.

At just 26 years old, Crowell is still young, though now heading into his sixth year in the league, he’s an established veteran. He also doesn’t have a lengthy, troublesome injury history others carry with them.

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As the primary ballcarrier in Cleveland in 2016 and 2017, Crowell put together solid seasons – 952 yards and seven touchdowns with a 4.8 ypc average in 2016 and 853 yards, two touchdowns, and a 4.1 ypc average in 2017.

Last year with the mess that was the New York Jets, Crowell led the team in touches, though the 143 he got were a career low. He still managed to turn that into 685 yards (4.8 ypc) and six touchdowns.

Crowell has good size, decent speed, a solid burst, and can be an effective blocker on passing downs. No, he doesn’t have a wow factor – he’s not Le’Veon Bell. Hell, he’s not even Marshawn Lynch. But, he’s a hard runner with a knack for finding and exploiting seams in the defense.

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Despite averaging just 176 touches a season, Crowell has maintained an average of 4.3 yards per carry. He’s also averaged 761 yards and almost six touchdowns a year over the course of his career.

As a complementary piece in what figures to be a multi-pronged ground attack – Richard and Washington figure to get some carries and it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Martin is brought back as well – Crowell could help provide some solid numbers for a running game that suffered without the presence of a big lead back.

While Martin returning isn’t out of the question, it’s also possible the Raiders could pick somebody up during (or after) the Draft next month. But even if that came to pass, it’s not likely they would get a ton of playing time anyway.

We all know Gruden isn’t overly keen on playing rookies, preferring to utilize veterans.

If the Raiders have determined that Lynch likely isn’t coming back – or they’re just not going to wait for him to make up his mind and have moved on – Crowell would be a very solid addition to the backfield and one they should give serious consideration to not letting leave the building when they meet.