Training camp outlook: Running back

One story in a series, looking at position breakdowns for the Oakland Raiders, who arrive for training camp in Napa, CA. Today – a look at running backs:

The trade to acquire wide receiver Randy Moss from the Minnesota Vikings garnered the bulk of the attention among the Oakland Raiders offseason moves. The signing of running back Lamont Jordan from the New York Jets, however, might be most vital to the team's success even though Moss is the marquee name.

Even without Moss last season, the Raiders enjoyed some level of success throwing the ball. The ground game, however, was an unmitigated disaster as Oakland had the least productive running game in the NFL last season in averaging 80.9 yards per game. Individually, eight NFL running backs amassed more rushing yards on their own than the Raiders team total of 1,295.

Oakland paid a pretty penny (5 years, $27.5 million) in hopes that Jordan can be the answer to those woes. On the surface, Jordan appears to be a back that Oakland can count on for 15 or more carries per game to establish the threat of the run. The Raiders also hope that Jordan's presence creates opportunities for the vertical passing game.

Jordan, however, comes with one question mark despite his attributes. This will be his first shot at being an every-down back after four years of being a role player behind probable future Hall-of-Famer Curtis Martin. Granted, Jordan performed well when given the chance but being a starter is a different animal than that of a role player.

Oakland needs Jordan to be that bellcow because there are no viable options to speak of on the Raiders. Justin Fargas' biggest asset is his speed but that attribute is offset by the fact that he has problems hanging on to the ball and he's injury prone.

Despite his 134-yard rushing performance in the regular season finale against Jacksonville, Zack Crockett is best suited to being a short-yardage back that has the versatility to play fullback. Oakland might need him in that role because Rob Konrad retired shortly after the Raiders signed him as a free agent from Miami. Oakland re-signed Chris Hetherington late last season. Hetherington could be in the mix for the fullback job.

Vince D'Adamo can be reached at vdad7@yahoo.com


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