While tight ends emerge as receiving threats, fullbacks continue to take a backseat. How can the Oakland Raiders use Jamize Olawale going forward?
In 2015, the Oakland Raiders extended fullback Jamize Olawale’s contract through the 2018 season, which spelled the end for Marcel Reece‘s tenure with the team. In the previous season, Olawale caught 12 passes for 227 yards and ran the ball 17 times for 47 yards. He scored three touchdowns from scrimmage. Big deal, right?
Now, running back Latavius Murray and tight end Mychal Rivera could be looking for lucrative deals elsewhere. Both came into the league in 2013 and should look to cash in on their second contracts.
The departures will leave room for Olawale to increase his production. Let’s be clear about one thing, the 27-year-old fullback cannot carry the same load as Murray. Many have suggested the 6-1, 240-pound back take a third of the rush attempts in the backfield. He’s only carried the ball 46 times in his five-year career. It’s a role better suited for a running back who’s accustomed to handling several carries per game.
As for Olawale, he’s a solid alternative option near the goal line and on short-yardage situations. According to Pro Football Focus, he’s also a good pass blocker who can stay on the field. Though, he can have a major impact in Rivera’s old role. Of course, new offensive coordinator Todd Downing would have to emphasize tight ends in the passing game more so than his predecessor for that to ultimately matter.
Some Raiders fans have fantasized about two-tight ends sets with Clive Walford and Alabama product O.J. Howard. For starters, Oakland should avoid selecting a tight end in the first round until the offensive scheme allocates more pass targets to the position. Secondly, the offense can still run dual sets with Walford and Olawale. Remember, the fifth-year fullback logged a career-high in receiving yards for the 2016 season. Why not augment his role as a receiving tight end and monitor his production rate?
If Murray plays elsewhere, a bruising rookie running back with above average overall blocking skills could handle a third of the rush attempts and serve as a lead blocker and pass protector on third downs against oncoming blitzers. Even though Olawale lined up as the fullback in the recent past, Downing can potentially squeeze the most out of him as a pass-catching tight end.
A move to tight end or H-Back wouldn’t be a new wrinkle for Olawale. He played tight end at El Camino Junior College and H-Back at North Texas. His production during those years didn’t turn heads, but he’s never been the focal point of an offense. Nonetheless, the Raiders don’t need gaudy numbers at the No. 2 tight end position. Olawale has good enough hands to fulfill the role.
In his five-year career, he’s converted 42 targets into 33 receptions. More opportunities in the passing game would give Olawale an expanded role, save the Raiders a draft pick or cash on another tight end and provide a new dimension to the passing offense.