In a tradition as reliable as Groundhog Day, the Las Vegas Raiders signed a running back to not only back up Josh Jacobs, but to replace Jalen Richard as well. Whether it be Doug Martin or Isaiah Crowell, Richard has battled through some recognized names to remain on the Raiders depth chart.
Through 2018, Richard was trending upwards as a valuable change-of-pace running back and recorded career bests with 55 rushing attempts and 68 receptions. Following the 2018 season, Richard’s stats and productivity took a steep nose dive as the Raiders moved on from Marshawn Lynch and welcomed Alabama rookie Josh Jacobs.
Jacobs quickly emerged as a bell-cow back, capable of remaining on the field for a vast majority of a drive, limiting the need for Richard. Yet, the Raiders stuck with Richard, perhaps hoping to see a 2018-esque spark (which is difficult when he is not on the field). Regardless, Richard’s future with the team has not looked worse in quite some time, with the addition of Kenyan Drake. In previous years, the Raiders have signed hybrid backs that can run and receive, but none at the same caliber as Drake.
In 2020, Drake served as the lead back for the Arizona Cardinals, starting 13 of the 15 games he appeared in while leading all Cardinals running backs in rushing yards. Over the last three seasons, Drake has had a significant emphasis on the run game and has not recorded 200 receiving yards in that time. This is where things could get interesting for Richard.
Josh Jacobs is obviously a run-first, run-second, catch-third style running back, and with Drake’s run-first, catch-second style, the Raiders do not have a pure receiving back high on the depth chart. Currently, Richard would sit third on the pecking order, most likely edging out Theo Riddick to avoid dropping any lower.
Head coach Jon Gruden has mentioned the emphasis on getting creative with Drake, similar to the plans he had for Lynn Bowden, which could elude to less need for Richard. The three-running back system is a bit rare nowadays, but the Raiders have the perfect coverage of the spectrum with their three: one run-dominant, one receiving-dominant, and one hybrid, do-it-all back. The possibilities are limitless, should the playcallers start to feel creative again.
In addition to a nice backfield, the Raiders have a few question marks at wide receiver. Henry Ruggs and John Brown have yet to emerge as consistent targets, while Hunter Renfrow and Bryan Edwards have not earned the right to be included in the above conversation. While the Raiders work to develop their wide receivers, a second or third running back in the mix could keep defenses on their toes.