Most teams longest receiving plays of the season come from their wide receivers or tight ends, but for the Raiders, that record is held by fullback Jamize Olawale.
Olawale has the two longest receiving plays of the season for the Raiders, one a 68-yard reception against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the other a 75-yard touchdown on Monday night against the Houston Texans.
Despite being a fullback, Olawale is a serious receiving threat out of the backfield for the Raiders, and he adds another dimension to their already loaded offense.
Quarterback Derek Carr likes having as many skilled players around him as possible, and he said other teams will no longer be surprised by Olawale’s capabilities as a receiver.
“I don’t think they will be anymore. Even the year before I got here, we had Olawale running slant-and-goes and seam routes, things like that. They knew what they had in him and this organization has known for a long time. I think teams know what he can do, but when the fullback is coming out of the backfield and catching the ball it creates a lot of mismatches for us.”
Olawale’s created a major mismatch on his 75-yard touchdown catch against the Texans, which was why the play was so successful.
“I had an outside go and I had to stay on my landmark. I think it was a well designed play. It put the safety in a bind and put the corner in a bind. He had to play myself or Amari Cooper or Mychal Rivera, so you have to pick your poison.”
It was a tremendous play call by offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. With 10:57 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Raiders were down 20-13. Instead of dialing up the obvious deep ball to Cooper or Michael Crabtree, Musgrave called a wheel route for Olawale out of the backfield.
Cooper was lined up as the tailback on the play, and the cornerback stayed put to cover him. Olawale ran upfield uncovered, and Derek Carr lofted the ball 25 yards downfield to him. He waited for the ball for a second, and then immediately cut inside and up the field, passing right by safety Andre Hal who took a poor angle on the play.
After running past Hal, Olawale had a clear path to the end zone and tied up the score at 20, which put the momentum back in the favor of the Silver and Black en route to their key 27-20 victory over the Texans.
Olawale said of the throw:
“It was a perfectly placed ball, I couldn’t ask for a better ball.”
Olawale had big shoes to fill with the departure of four-time Pro Bowl fullback Marcel Reece. The Raiders cut Reece in September, but they knew they could make the move because they had a fullback equally as good in Olawale.
Similarly to Reece, Olawale played some wide receiver in college. He has the capability to be a gritty and stout run blocker, but he can also run routes downfield as fast as most running backs.
Running back Latavius Murray said jokingly that he and Olawale disagree on who’s the fastest running back on the roster:
“The arguments been going on all year now, so of course when he broke off a big one like that he’s going to think ‘I got the upper hand right now,’ but I’m still going to say I’m the fastest in the room.”
The versatility Olawale brings is something general manager Reggie McKenzie covets. The Raiders signed him off the Dallas Cowboys practice squad in December of 2012, and the move has paid off in a big way.
Olawale is a player who can do multiple things at his position, and he is someone who is hard to game plan for.
Teams are already busy enough as it is planning on how to cover Cooper and Crabtree, they don’t want to have to factor in how to cover a fast and athletic fullback as well.
Olawale said he’s happy to help the team anyway he can:
“I enjoy winning, so whatever I have to do to help the team win, that’s my goal. Sometimes it’s blocking, sometimes it’s catching, it might be both, but whatever I have to do.”
Beyond just being a great fullback, Carr said Olawale is also a tremendous person as well:
“The cool thing about him is not only is he a really, really good football player, but he’s one of the best people I’ve ever met. He works extremely hard and whenever you have a guy like that having success, everyone in the locker room (is happy for him).”