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Tony Sparano: Latavius Murray can be a feature back

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Tony Sparano was pumping the breaks last month on our Latavius Murray hype train, questioning whether the runner could be a featured back.

After seeing the second-year pro carry the load the past three games, the interim coach now has flipped the script, telling Bill Polian on Sirius XM NFL Radio's "Late Hits" earlier this week that Murray can be a No. 1 back.

"Early in the season, it took us a while to figure that part of it out," Sparano said, per CSN Bay Area. "He's a guy that was hurt all year last year. Latavius has really come into his own, and I think he can handle the workload of being a No. 1 guy."

Over his last four games played -- including the 112-yard outburst against the Kansas City Chiefs -- Murray has averaged 83.3 yards per game, 5.4 yards per carry, with eight runs of 10-plus yards and two touchdowns.

By comparison, until last week's 25-yard burst, veteran Darren McFadden hadn't had a run of more than nine yards since Week 8 and hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 7.

Rookie quarterback Derek Carr has noticed the difference when Murray is on the field.

"Teams just can't sit and drop everybody into coverage," Carr said. "That's why you see -- especially the San Francisco game is a good one to look at, play action game was big time in that one -- that's a big reason, because of the run game. We were able to hit the play actions and take big chunks, so this whole thing correlates, works together."

The three-win Raiders will need another overhaul next year, but with Carr and Murray back as significant pieces to the puzzles, there are reasons for optimism in the Oakland offense.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast previews the biggest matchups in Week 17 and makes its picks for the last week of the season. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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