Musgrave looking to tailor offense to strengths

ALAMEDA — One of the league’s greatest rushing attacks developed under new Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. But that doesn’t mean the Raiders will be run-heavy in 2015.

Musgrave, who the Raiders hired Monday, defines himself as coach who likes to run the football, but says he will have players do what comes natural to them:

“We’re definitely going to try to customize and tailor the Raiders’ system to fit the Raider players. Philosophically, I do believe in running the football. I definitely want to be a physical outfit that runs the ball and imposes their will on the defense. At the same time, it’s difficult to defend through the passing game and through being diverse.”

Musgrave coached Adrian Peterson when he rushed for over 2,000 yards and was coming off an ACL tear, the only running back in NFL history to do such a thing. It was also the second highest mark by a runner in a single season.

The Raiders don’t have an Adrian Peterson on their roster, even if he could be available soon. What they have is Latavius Murray — and that’s it. Ok, there’s Maurice Jones-Drew, but he doesn’t project to continue with the team.

That leaves a substantial question for Musgrave and new head coach Jack Del Rio, one that tape can’t quite answer.

Musgrave spoke about his different offensive philosophies, and how they came about, but his latest one-year stint with the Philadelphia Eagles is one that may translate into 2015, he says:

“The last 12 months have been terrific for me to see the system here in Philadelphia – be a part of it, be a contributor. We’re going to do quite a bit if it fits what the players can do there in Oakland. We’re looking forward to getting out on the field in the spring and really finding out where their strengths lie.”

Chip Kelly’s ‘blur’ offense pumped new blood into Philadelphia’s attack and made up for what has been an awful defense for any number of years. It was so that even Mark Sanchez, who Musgrave coached, was able to find the best numbers of his career.

That’s a big if, though, even with Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin hitting free agency, and other speedsters also available.

Musgrave, nor Del Rio, can be certain of much currently. Only that Musgrave has led one Adrian Peterson into a man that can nearly do no wrong, and another Fred Taylor to a 1,500 yard season.

And that’s where the mustard falls. Right on Murray, and whomever else joins Oakland’s roster.

It’s conceivable, albeit to a nominal degree, that the Raiders will land a priority free agent such as DeMarco Murray, due to Musgrave’s success in the run game.

The more realistic possibility is that the team signs a guy to a ‘prove-it’ deal, and he makes the most of it. One player in big need of some coaching help is C.J. Spiller, who was with Buffalo and is an impending free agent. And has yet to live up to his potential.

Spiller’s best year came under Chan Gailey, who is now with the Jets. If Spiller can’t agree on a deal with New York, then the Raiders could become a second option.

For Musgrave, figuring out what he has to work with will not be as easy as it may have been elsewhere. But it’s conceivable that Murray’s traits as a back will be maximized, and quarterback Derek Carr will have a weight off his shoulders.

Carr, in fact, was one of the most attractive pieces in the Raiders’ stable for Musgrave. Carr threw 21 touchdowns in his rookie season, along with 3,270 yards. The Raiders were often playing from behind, and the three wins came in games where the running game was clicking.

On Carr, Musgrave said:

“The presence of Derek was definitely a factor. I think a number of coaches have expressed interest in being Jack’s offensive coordinator, and I know he talked to a number of people, and one of the main reasons would be the presence of Derek Carr. … I think the entire league has high hopes for Derek, and he didn’t let anybody down when he got a chance to get on the field this fall.”


Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.