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Raiders Take on Chiefs

Steve Marcus

Las Vegas Raiders running back Zamir White (35) warms up before an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Allegiant Stadium Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023.

The music started playing, and Zamir White began dancing.

The Raiders’ second-year running back out of Georgia was in line for a running backs drill but also loosening up in between reps at the start of the first padded practice of training camp earlier this week in Henderson. Busting some moves wouldn’t have been anything out of the ordinary for most of the roster, but it wasn’t how White typically conducted himself last season.

He was among the most workmanlike members of the team his rookie year, focused on carving out a spot in the league without drawing any extra attention to himself. This season, the former fourth-round pick is feeling more “comfortable” according to coach Josh McDaniels.     

“He’s a year further ahead,” McDaniels said. “He knows what to expect, understands what’s being asked of him now. I’m excited for him.”

A lot is being asked of him a week and a half into camp. With Josh Jacobs, the NFL’s leading rusher a year ago, still away from the team as part of a contract dispute, White has taken over as the Raiders’ primary running back.

Other backs like veterans Ameer Abdullah and Brandon Bolden, and fellow second-year draftee Brittain Brown, have rotated in with the starters frequently but no one has gotten more carries than White. And no one has done more with their carries than White, whom teammates call by his nickname, “Zeus.”

“I’ve been around a number of guys that when they hit you, there’s going to be a +2 (yards) added to the run,” McDaniels said. “Zamir, that’s how he’s run in college and so far, how we’ve seen him run, mostly in practice.”

White hasn’t yet been made available to the media this season, but his play on the field has spoken volumes. The Raiders have only staged one practice where they’ve gone full contact, but White hasn’t shied from it in any session.

He welcomes contact.

Physicality is such a big part of his game that it’s impressed even those who are more than 100 pounds heavier than the 6-foot, 215-pound running back.

“Zeus is going to run headfirst and run you over; he doesn’t care,” offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor said. “It’s cool to play with guys like that because you know if you open up a hole and he gets to the safety, nine times out of 10, he’s going to run him over and score. Josh (Jacobs), there’s no one like him but we’re lucky to have a guy like Zeus.”

White made a similar — though perhaps not quite as outsized — impression in last season’s training camp. He looked so strong in practice and the Hall of Fame game that most assumed he’d wrest a share of the carries away from Jacobs during the regular season.

That didn’t happen with Jacobs putting together the best year of his career. White received only 17 carries for 70 yards but never showed any frustration with having to wait behind Jacobs and mostly only playing special teams.

Jacobs sang White’s praises on a couple different occasions, saying his understudy was capable of a bigger role, and now it’s been apparent what he meant.

“His locker is right next to me,” fullback Jakob Johnson said of White. “I always try to give him a good word every day, but he’s just been coming in super-focused, working hard, asking questions every day. I’m excited to be out there leading the way for him.”

White’s hard-nosed style is a clear fit with running between the tackles and behind a traditional fullback like Johnson, but in training camp, he’s shown he can excel elsewhere too.

He ran a sweep during Wednesday’s practice and beat the defense to the edge. White has also seemingly placed an emphasis on making quick cuts and getting up field, where he’s typically sprinting through the sound of the whistle.   

“That guy finishes, man,” the veteran Abdullah said. “He finishes all the way down the field almost every single time. He’s a guy who’s going to do the little things. He takes the coaching really well. I think he comes from a very humble upbringing, so I think that that’s what’s really molded him to be the adaptable player that he is. So just learning from that and always humbling yourself is what I’ve learned from Zamir.”

Jacobs is likely to return at some point before the start of the regular season. The All-Pro hasn’t yet signed his franchise tender meaning he can miss training camp without penalty, but he’ll sacrifice a $10.1 million salary if he sits out the season.

McDaniels said he “wouldn’t expect” Jacobs to be unseated as the featured back who gets most of the snaps at running back if he does come back considering his spectacular past season. But it’s a luxury to have someone behind Jacobs who’s given every indication that he’s ready to take the next step in his professional career.

“He’s putting in a lot of time and effort into being a complete player, not just a guy that has the ball and can do something with it,” McDaniels said. “He wants to be good at blitz pickup, he wants to improve in the passing game and all those things that are a part of a running back’s progression. He’s really working hard.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or

Article written by #LasVegasSun


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