For all the concern over the injury to the throwing hand of Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, the team’s inability to run the ball in its season-opening loss to Cincinnati has to be more troubling.
After spending the offseason retooling the offense to revolve around the running game, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave barely broke it out against the Bengals. Oakland’s 16 rushing attempts were tied with Detroit and Philadelphia for the fewest in the NFL in Week 1.
When they did try to run it, the Raiders didn’t have much luck and finished with just 63 yards on the ground, tied for second fewest in the league last week.
Musgrave expects that to change today against Baltimore at O.co Coliseum.
“I think that’d be one of the areas that we’d want to get better at,” Musgrave said. “There are a number of things in that game that we want to improve upon. More runs, more touches for everybody would be included in that.”
The Raiders had seven drives when they ran the ball just once, including four in the first half before the score got out of hand.
Latavius Murray, who led Oakland with 44 yards on 11 carries, was stopped for 2 yards or fewer five times. Backup Taiwan Jones had three runs that netted 5 yards.
Reserve fullback Jamize Olawale appeared to provide a boost of the bench with his 60-yard run in the second quarter, but the play was negated when right tackle Austin Howard was flagged for holding.
That put added pressure on a passing game already suffering after Carr injured his hand, and left Oakland as an easy target for Cincinnati’s defense.
Carr, who is expected to start, said it’s too easy to blame the running game for Oakland’s struggles moving the ball.
“It works hand in hand,” the second-year quarterback said. “If we’re throwing it well, that’s going to help Latavius. If Latavius is running well, that’s going to help us on the perimeter. It’s a team game. It works both ways.
“We have to be more efficient first and second down, myself included. I have to be more efficient in where to throw the football, what coverages are and what’s the best option to help us do that. As long as we can do that, we’ll be just fine.”
Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said the lack of rushing attempts against Cincinnati was a result of the overall ineffectiveness of the offense.
“Yeah, I’d like to see (the attempts) go up, but we have to earn that,” Del Rio said. “Convert some on third downs, have more possessions. I don’t feel like we totally abandoned it, but I don’t feel like we effectively did what we set out to do.”
One option might be to activate Roy Helu Jr., who is fully recovered from the hamstring injury that sidelined him for a chunk of training camp. Signed as a free agent to a $4.1 million, two-year deal, the former Washington Redskins running back played in the final two preseason games, but was a healthy scratch against the Bengals after appearing to win the job as Oakland’s third-down back.Bill MusgraveDerek CarrLatavius MurrayNFLOakland Raiders