Raiders' offense remains grounded
ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) When general manager Reggie McKenzie set out in the offseason to rebuild the Oakland Raiders, he wanted to put together a team that could push around opponents in the trenches and run the ball consistently.
That was the same message Tony Sparano delivered when he took over as interim coach four games into the season. Yet the Raiders start the second half of the season on pace to run the ball fewer times than any team in more than 80 years and for fewer yards than any team in nearly 70 years.
Along with searching for their first win of the season, the Raiders (0-8) also are trying to re-establish their identity. Oakland is last in the NFL in rushing with 65.5 yards per game, the fewest for any team since the 1946 Detroit Lions averaged 42.5 yards. The Raiders have only run the ball 18.9 times per game, the fewest on records that go back to 1932.
''I'm just not used to that, the number of attempts being what they are right now,'' Sparano said. ''We put ourselves there. You're down on the road, in that kind of situation, and we put ourselves in that position a little bit on several occasions. Normally, I'm more used to being in the 30 range, somewhere around there, and I think that produces better numbers.''
Right now the numbers are quite poor. The Raiders have topped 100 yards rushing just twice all season, gaining 101 in a blowout loss to Houston in Week 2 with help from a 41-yard keeper by quarterback Derek Carr and 114 against San Diego in the first game under Sparano.
But the running game has reverted the past three weeks with the team averaging 56.3 yards per game and 2.9 yards per carry in losses to Arizona, Cleveland and Seattle.
Sparano said the lack of opportunities has hurt the production. He said the team had 17 run plays in the game plan against Seattle but only ran the ball 16 times as the offensive line was beat repeatedly at the point of attack.
''We just have to figure it out,'' Howard said. ''We have the guys up front to run the ball. We have the coaches to put us in the places to have success in the run game. We just have to go out on the field and do it. It's on us as players to go out and get it done.''
Despite the lack of production on the ground, the Raiders have stuck with Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew as their primary ball carriers. McFadden has 358 yards and is averaging 3.7 yards per carry while Jones-Drew has been held to 54 yards on 26 carries as he has been slowed by a hand injury.
Latavius Murray has carried the ball just four times all season and fullback Marcel Reece also has only four runs. Reece has had good success the few times he has played tailback, rushing for 123 yards last year against the Jets and averaging 114 yards from scrimmage in four starts in 2012.
''That's something that you could see happen because he's a big back who carries the ball a little differently than the other runners that we have,'' Sparano said. ''In his opportunity last year that's something he did a good job of. We're just trying to get to a point where we can get enough carries to go around period here. Bringing one more guys into the mix at this point while it may be great and might be a spark is a thought.''
NOTES: CBs Carlos Rogers (knee), TJ Carrie (ankle) and Chimdi Chekwa (hamstring) did not practice. ... G Gabe Jackson also was held out after leaving Sunday's game with an injured left knee. ... WR Vincent Brown (hamstring) and CB Keith McGill (groin) were back at practice.
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