As much as the Oakland Raiders passed the ball, some folks might think this position did not even exist.
Well, it did.
Charlie Garner continued to be perhaps the best all-purpose running back this side of St. Louis' Marshall Faulk. Garner rushed for 962 yards on 182 carries and seven touchdowns. He also caught 91 passes for 941 yards and four touchdowns.
Garner, 30, is at age where most running backs are declining but the Raiders' emphasis on the pass may actually add mileage to his career because Garner is not pounding into the line as much as runners that carry the ball 25-plus times.
Tyrone Wheatley was a good change of pace in rushing for 419 yards while Zack Crockett was money in short yardage situations. He carried just 40 times but 31 produced either a first down or touchdowns.
Terry Kirby was having a solid season as a kickoff returner and pass catcher out of the bakfield before landing on injured reserve in Week 7. Randy Jordan saw limited duty on offense but continued to excel as a special teams performer.
Fullback Jon Ritchie remains a solid blocker and decent receiver but his role diminished as the Raiders employed more three receiver sets.
As for what lies ahead relevant to the Raiders being an estimated $48 million over the salary cap, Garner is the only one that would appear assured to return. Wheatley, Ritchie and Jordan are free agents but Jordan might be the only one that can return at a reasonable cost. Wheatley, Crockett and Kirby can be assets but the Raiders are unlikely to be able to afford keeping all three.
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at email@example.com