ALAMEDA, Calif. — Even though Latavius Murray is getting the ball less for the Oakland Raiders, he’s doing much more when he has it.
With the Raiders finally giving him needed support in the backfield with rookies Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington and fortifying the line with Kelechi Osemele, Murray is off to a fast start this season.
“I’m not in there as much, so it definitely is less taxing on my body. I feel a little fresher,” he said. “Regardless of when I go in there and how many times I go in there I just have to do what I have to do.”
While Murray has seen his playing time drop a bit this season, his production has been stellar. He is averaging 5.3 yards per carry with two touchdowns and has gained 86.5 yards from scrimmage per game.
That has helped fuel a productive running game with Richard adding a 75-yard touchdown run in the opener and Washington added 46 yards on six carries last week. In all, the Raiders have rushed for 322 yards in two games and are averaging 6.3 yards per carry.
“I love handing that ball off and all of the sudden you just see them going,” quarterback Derek Carr said. “I remember, my rookie year for whatever reason, that wasn’t the case. It’s gotten a little better and then this year it’s taken off here in the first two games.”
While Murray had some success last year when he ran for 1,066 yards and made the Pro Bowl as an alternate, he appeared to tire as games and the season went on with Oakland having no capable backup tailbacks.
Murray averaged just 2.2 yards per carry in the fourth quarter and his production plummeted after the first half of the season. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry the first eight games, compared to 3.3 the final eight.
“I told him when we had all of these running backs start to play well in training camp we’d sit back there and watch and I said, ‘Man, that’s the best thing that ever happened for you,'” Carr said. “He would just laugh because as a competitor he wants every rep. But I said, ‘Man, just remember that’s the best thing that happened to you.’ Because every ball he gets he’s going to be 100 percent fresh.”
Murray has broken nine tackles already this season on his 29 offensive touches, according to Sports Info Solutions. That 31 percent broken tackle rate far exceeds his mark a year ago when he did it just 12.7 percent of the time.
One of those came in the opener when Murray bulled over New Orleans’ James Laurinaitis for a touchdown run that prompted Carr to call him “Angry Tay.” That has been part of a concerted effort Murray has made to be more physical in hopes of turning negative plays into positive gainers.
“This year I’m just making sure I use my size to my advantage, breaking tackles trying to run through guys,” he said. “When that ball is in my hands, whoever is on the other side of the ball becomes the victim of angry Tay.”
NOTES: CB David Amerson was limited after leaving Sunday’s game with a concussion but coach Jack Del Rio is hopeful he can play this week. … T Menelik Watson (groin) returned to practice after missing the previous game.