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Raiders face tough decisions at running back position

Updated September 4, 2020 - 9:27 am

A day ahead of the NFL’s cutdown day, the Raiders faced a number of difficult decisions ahead of the 1 p.m. Saturday deadline to get to 53 players.

On Friday they made a surprising move by releasing safety Damarious Randall. And now a tougher decision looms: What to do at running back.

“A lot of tough decisions are going to be made here in the next 24 hours and I think that running back position is one of them,” Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “Just great competition across the board.”

The Raiders have to decide on a backup running back behind starter Josh Jacobs. It’s been slow-going for rookie Lynn Bowden as he makes the transition from college wide receiver and quarterback to NFL running back while recently added pickup Theo Riddick is putting heat on veteran Jalen Richard.

Bowden, a second-round pick from Kentucky, is safe to make the team. However, it’s unclear if he will be ready by Week 1 to be Jacobs’ primary backup. And if not, the Raiders might keep an extra running back or look to the open market?

As the roster stands, the Raiders have Jacobs, Bowden, Richard, Riddick and Devontae Booker at running back with Alec Ingold, their fullback, able to play running back if needed.

“Once we decide who those backs are, we’ve got tough decisions to make here, so when we get our roster cut down then we’ll focus on the personnel groupings we’re going to use in this opening game. But we’ve got some cuts to make and decisions to make across the board at every position.

Riddick and Richard are more third-down backs who add a change of pace element as runners or pass-catchers. Booker, who played four seasons for the Denver Broncos, is more of a traditional every-down running back.

Presumably, Bowden can be a combination of all of those skill sets, capable of handling big-time snaps as an every-down back while providing pass-catching ability. But that time might not be right now as he learns a new position.

“It’s never easy, you talk to him about making that transition, really, from high school (quarterback) to wide receiver then playing quarterback at the University of Kentucky (to) an entirely different game at this level,” said Olson. “We’ve brought him a long slowly and we’ll continue to do that and continue to find ways to use him in out offense.”

As for Randall, his stay with the Raiders was a disappointment. He was brought in as a free agent during the offseason to compete for a starting job opposite Johnathan Abram. But he had been steadily losing first-team reps to Erik Harris and Jeff Heath during training camp and a team source revealed Friday that Randall practiced one time during camp.

With such a small body of work, the Raiders moved on from Randall and hope that Harris and Heath can provide quality snaps alongside Abram.

Heath has started 54 games during his seven-year career with the Dallas Cowboys, and recorded 219 tackles in the last three years. Harris, though, has more experience at free safety, starting 14 games last season and recording 74 tackles and three interceptions.

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on Twitter.

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