Oakland Raiders and The Quest For 53: The Running Backs
With a solid quarterback, there is always a safety outlet. If the quarterback is dealing with problems on timing, speed or accuracy, this group of players becomes just that much more important.
These are the players that have the task of killing time, ball control, those difficult third and one calls or pulling of complex plays designed for long gains.
For the Raiders, this is a field that holds a lot of promise for the team, the fans and the coaches. Again, the problem resides in how many of these will be donning a home jersey for the Raiders on Monday night against the Chargers?
On the Raiders roster from www.raiders.com shows five presently on the roster.
Our first player is Michael Bush who is entering his second year of playing time. After missing the first season in the NFL recovering from a broken leg sustained at Louisville in 2006. Last season the Raiders used him in different situations but when given the choice, he proved on ill effects. Last season in week 17, he ran over a Tampa Bay team on the road and ended a playoff-bound team's chances. In the preaseason so far, Michael has 33 yards on five carries. Odds for him being on the roster? 100 percent.
Probably the biggest problem the Raiders have in the running game, comes from which player do you start. MIchael Bush is strong and can make holes at times. Darren McFadden, the number four overall pick in 2008 out of Arkansas also is talented. His ability comes from being able to find a hole, and simply outrun anyone. Against Dallas, the Raider Nation was able to witness some of this speed with a 45 yard burst, the longest on the ground this preseason. For some clubs it would be nice to have an ala carte choice, do you take the big brute running back, or the seam specialist? Odds for him being on the roster? 100 percent.
Our third player has years of experience. Playing during horrible seasons, sometimes he was the only one showing promise. To top it off, he led the club the last two years in rushing. This is Justin Fargas. While not as flashy as the first two, Justin has his own brand of hard-headed running that coaches love. Straight ahead, make a hole but if he gets through the line he can be hard to bring down. In two straight seasons Fargas was called on as the workhorse, first when LaMont Jordan went down and then when Darren McFadden was out with turf toe. This preseason, the major factors that are hurting his chances are a lack of production from his small number of chances and the better production from Louis Rankin. Odds for him being on the roster? 75 percent.
Our fourth player is, as mentioned Louis Rankin. For Rankin, this is more of a homecoming, as he played football at Lincoln High at Stockton, California. Last season the Raiders felt highly enough about this young man that they added him to the practice squad after three decent games in the preseason. In 2009, his performance has also turned heads of the coaches, as he helped the Raiders beat the Cowboys with 31 yards on the ground, 19 yards in the air and a touchdown. The one item that people will be watching for tonight, is to see if Tom Cable will let Rankin have more practice against first team defenses. It should go a long way into determining if either he or Fargas gets the nod for the spot. Odds for him being on the roster? 50 percent.
Our last player has been handling cleanup duties for the Raiders late in the game. However he does have one thing the other four don't and that is playing on a Super Bowl winning team. Gary Russell was with the Steelers last year and scored a touchdown in the game. However, Russell's team with the Raiders has been viewed more as a cleanup role, witnessed by his 44 yards against the scrubs in Dallas. As his regular season numbers show, with 3 touchdowns and 98 yards total, his only chance at hanging on is as a short yardage specialist. Odds for him being on the roster? 10 percent.
The factors that affect every player on the roster is dependent on each other. How many quarterbacks are needed? How many running backs? Wide recievers? Tight ends?
For the Raiders, if they can afford the four, I would go with Bush, McFadden, Fargas, Rankin. and Russell is cut, most likely on the first of September.
If the Raiders can afford only three players, I think the Raiders will cut Fargas (or try to trade him), and go with Bush, McFadden, and Rankin. They would hold Fargas as long as possible.
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