ALAMEDA – The Raiders running back group went through a disturbance this week when Isaiah Crowell tore his Achilles tendon in a Tuesday offseason program workout. He’s done for the year and likely as a Raider after signing a one-year contract in March.
That created a veteran void hole at the position quickly filled by Doug Martin, last year’s leading rusher. The Oakland native returns after a long stay on the open market, expected to support Josh Jacobs, the No. 24 overall pick expected to be the Raiders’ lead back.
“Doug will be able to come in here and be a great mentor to Jacobs,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “He knows the system. He has produced in the system. Doug has had some real highs and some real lows in this league. He’ll be a great resource to our young back, and he can still play. We’re happy to have Doug back and disappointed for Isaiah.”
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Gruden said Crowell suffered a “freak injury” the way it happened and feels for a player hoping to re-launch his career after a lackluster 2018 season with the New York Jets.
Crowell’s injury and Martin’s signing doesn’t change the top of the depth chart. Jacobs is sitting there comfortably already, though Gruden didn’t want to anoint him feature back just yet and said competition will be coming.
“Doug Martin was our three-down back last year and he finished quite well,” Gruden said. “We’re comfortable with Doug. I think Jalen Richard is a really good back, and he wants to be a three-down back. We just paid him a lot of money because of his skill. I think DeAndre Washington, who was hurt most of last year, is also going to be a contributor. We’ll see what happens with Jacobs. He has a lot to learn in our system, and he has to beat out some good backs.”
Gruden didn’t originally mention Chris Warren III but he’s also in the mix after spending the 2018 regular season on injured reserve with a knee injury
"I like Chris Warren. He's 260 pounds. He can run,” Gruden said. He had a good (2018) preseason for us and has learned a lot about our offense and this profession. ... We'll see where he is. We're anxious to put him back in circulation."
Jacobs will have to earn his carries, but the full expectation is he’ll be the workhorse runner in this offense. Jacobs has the skills required to thrive in Gruden’s scheme and welcomes the chance at significant carries.
“Definitely eager to prove, not only to myself, but to everybody that I can be a three-down back,” Jacobs said. “Yeah, I think it was a blessing how it played out. I feel everything plays out how it’s supposed to. With me not having so much tread on the tires or whatever, being so fresh, I think it’s going to be huge, especially for my position. It’s going to be interesting.”