One of the biggest changes in the NFL this season is adding a 17th game. To that regard, personnel in the Raiders running backs group is even more important.
The front office already had what they thought was a star in the making with former first-round draft pick, Josh Jacobs. But the position takes a lot of hits over the season so the team brought in Kenyan Drake to share the load.
“Coach (Jon) Gruden had a great pitch for me to come out here and be a versatile playmaker to the team and it was definitely something I wanted to be a part of,” Drake said recently on The Jim Rome Show.
Jacobs rushed for 1,065 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, although his yards per carry was only 3.9. His best game of the season was Week 8 against the Browns, when he carried the ball 31 times for 129 yards.
“So, I was fighting for the dude to get him over here when I found out that Book [Devontae Booker] was leaving,” he said during minicamp. “Man, I’ve known Kenyan forever, since Alabama days. He used to come back and train with me all the time. His game speaks for itself. He’s very versatile. Can play inside and very good in open space. He can take the top off, so he’s going to be a great addition.”
Drake said he chose the Raiders because they didn’t pigeonhole him into a certain role. He said in Miami, he was primarily a third-round back, while in Arizona he was used mostly on first and second downs. The Raiders running backs group welcomes him with open arms.
“I’m trying to come full circle to where I can be used in multi-faceted parts of the game,” he said. “My versatility speaks for that. Put me out in space and be a dynamic weapon.”
Drake is entering his sixth year in the league. Last year with the Cardinals, he rushed for 995 yards and scored 10 touchdowns. He also caught 25 passes for 137 yards.
Drake is also excited to play with Jacobs, a former University of Alabama alum like himself.
“I feel like in this league you have to have a multitude of playmakers,” he said. ”… When can feed off of each other’s energy and keep each other fresh as the season goes on.”
Carr thinks both Raiders running backs will complement each other, particularly over the grind of a 17-game schedule.
“When you have two backs like that, you don’t have to kill Josh. Josh, he can be fresh every snap,” Carr said during minicamp. “Could you imagine that? Having to tackle that guy fresh every single time. Oh, here comes Drake.”
Other Raiders running backs
The Raiders let Devontae Booker go in free agency after last season, but still have Jalen Richards and Theo Riddick along with fullback Alec Ingold on the roster. The Raiders running backs group is in better shape than ever.
Richard is one of the original Raiders from before Gruden came on board. He’s been primarily a change of pace back, rushing for 1,293 yards in his five years in the league with four rushing touchdowns. He also has caught 179 passes for 1,518 yards and three scores.
Riddick came over last season after six years in Detroit. He played in only four games last season with the Raiders, but isn’t all that far removed from a season in which he caught 80 passes for 697 yards.
Raiders running backs will benefit from revamped line
Regardless of who is carrying the ball, the play of a retooled offensive line will be a big factor of their success. This offseason, the team jettisoned three starters and replaced them with a rookie first-round draft pick in Alex Leatherwood and returnees Denzelle Good and Andre James.
Carr thinks the group will come together quickly as most of them had to play a lot last year because of injury.
“Trust wise, we’ve had a lot of injuries on our offensive line throughout the years, so I’ve played with a lot of these guys already,” Carr said. “It’s not like I’m looking at new faces that I’ve never seen before. I’ve played with these guys. Especially with the caliber of players they are. They’re really good football players and we have [offensive line] Coach [Tom] Cable. He’s going to make sure we’re ready to play.”