With Murray limping, Raiders turning to pair of rookie RBs
ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) With running back Latavius Murray nursing a toe injury that has prevented him from practicing, the Raiders will be relying on a pair of rookies to keep the ground game going against San Diego on Sunday.
Fifth-round pick DeAndre Washington and undrafted Jalen Richard have been splitting reps with Oakland's first-team offense in practice this week and will continue to share time against the Chargers if Murray is unable to play.
Murray - who has played in 31 games over the past two seasons- watched Thursday's walkthrough and did not participate in the workout while trying to heal his sore toe.
''We hope that Tay can get back by Sunday,'' Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. ''I know he's working extremely hard at it. They're working with his shoes and things like that to help him in that regard. We'll just have to wait and see.''
If Murray is held out, Washington and Richard will have to fill the void after playing in reserve roles on offense and on special teams through the first month of the season.
The two have a combined 40 carries between them, equaling Murray's total this year. While Murray leads the trio with 172 yards, Washington is not far behind with 147. Richard has rushed for 144 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown run on his first NFL carry that is the second-longest scoring run in the league this season.
The backfield-by-committee has worked well so far for the Raiders. Oakland is fifth in the NFL in rushing and third in overall offense while averaging 126.8 yards on the ground.
Washington, who is averaging six yards a carry, said there are differences between him and Richard but added that both have proven to be effective in their limited time on the field.
''We're both playmakers, we both do good things and have good strengths,'' Washington said. ''It's fun to watch him do his thing. It's kind of just like a tag-team deal. I get in, I do my thing. Just be ready when you're number is called.''
If there is a potential for a problem with Murray not playing, it could come in the passing game. Murray is recognized as Oakland's best blocking back in pass protection, though Musgrave was quick to point out that Washington and Richard have done well in that facet.
''Latavius is the smartest one we've got in terms of pass protection,'' Musgrave said. ''He's in there with the O-line day in and day out working with coach (Mike) Tice. But these young guys have really fallen in step with him so we know we can trust them. That opens up a lot of great avenues for us.''
Richard has been splitting time on special teams, doubling on kickoff returns and punt returns. His 22.5-yard average on kickoff returns is tied for 10th in the NFL, though he has only four returns.
If Murray is held out, the Raiders will be down to four healthy backs - Washington, Richard, fullback Jamize Olawale and running back Taiwan Jones.
Musgrave will likely use all four against San Diego although the emphasis will be on Washington and Richard.
''They've gotten some valuable experience,'' Musgrave said. ''I don't think we're setting any limitations or putting them in any corner or any box right now.''
Notes: Rookie right tackle Vadal Alexander continues to work with the first-team offense and is likely to make his second straight start. Austin Howard (ankle) was limited for a second straight day while starter Menelik Watson (calf) was held out again. Tight end Clive Walford (knee) returned in limited fashion after sitting out Wednesday. Linebacker Malcolm Smith (groin) and safety Nate Allen (quad) also did not practice.
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