After mandatory mini-camp concluded and the Oakland Raiders had six weeks off before training camp, general manager Reggie McKenzie said every position will be in competition during training camp and the preseason. The Raiders have one of the most exciting and explosive running backs in the NFL in Darren McFadden, but his inability to stay healthy in past seasons could create a void and the competition for the back-up role becomes even more important.
When the Raiders lost productive running back Michael Bush to the Chicago Bears in free agency, they made the move of trading offensive lineman Bruce Campbell to the Carolina Panther for Mike Goodson. With Carolina, Goodson was behind both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart on the depth chart, but when his number was called due to injuries to both players, he answered starting three games with 452 rushing yards and making 40 receptions in 2010. Now as a member of the Raiders, Goodson loves the chance to compete.
“I’m competing with McFadden, too,” Goodson said at mini-camp. “Wherever you’re at, you’re competing with whoever’s at your position. I’m a competitor.”
In competition with Goodson for the back-up job is second year man Taiwan Jones. Jones was drafted in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft out of Eastern Washington. Known as a flat out burner, Jones was able to gain some experience last year, carrying the ball 16 times for 73 yards and making two catches. As Jones continues to work and become more comfortable in the offense, his speed and quickness will make him a valuable asset to the Raiders.
Between McFadden, Goodson, and Jones, the Raiders have a nice stable of running backs, but the persistent rumors of Cedric Benson joining the team create even more intrigue. If the Raiders and Benson have mutual interest and can come to an agreement, the running game could be one of the best in the NFL.
All the Oakland backs are capable of playing good football, especially as it relates to the passing game. McFadden, Goodson, and Jones are good receiving running backs with the speed and agility in the open field to take screens or pass receptions and turn them into big plays. As the NFL continues to become more and more of a running back by committee league, Oakland should feel good about the talent they have acquired at the position. It is a physical and violent game that requires depth and a next man up mentality. When training camp begins July 30th and into the preseason games, the running back competition will be interesting to watch and see who stands out. For Oakland, with or without Cedric Benson, the rushing offense should be a strength in 2012.
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