By Steve Corkran
Sunday, September 29th, 2013 at 6:19 pm in Oakland Raiders.
OAKLAND – In a perfect world, Rashad Jennings doesn’t see much playing time for the Raiders. If he’s on the field a great deal, that signifies that a front-line player is injured.
Such was the case Sunday, when Jennings was called upon to fill in for running back Darren McFadden, who suffered a hamstring injury early in the first half of the Raiders 24-14 loss to the Washington Redskins.
“The quote that always sticks with me, and I always share with people is, ‘When opportunity presents itself, it’s too late to prepare for it,’ ” Jennings said. “So, you always got to see yourself as the guy.”
Jennings was “the guy” on several levels Sunday, standing out in a game in which the Raiders squandered a 14-0 lead, surrendered seven sacks and allowed a struggling Redskins team to get its first victory in four games.
He made his presence felt from the outset, before McFadden suffered his injury and Jennings touched the ball on offense for the first of 23 times.
Jennings burst through the line and blocked a Sav Rocca punt that teammate Jeremy Stewart recovered in the end zone for a Raiders touchdown.
“Ever since I met the cat, since (offseason) camp, all he does is show up and work,” left offensive tackle Khalif Barnes said. “Whatever role they ask him to do, he does it. So, that doesn’t surprise me at all.”
The Raiders signed Jennings this past offseason ostensibly as a replacement for running back Mike Goodson, who departed to the Jets via free agency.
In Jennings, they landed a veteran back that has the versatility to make a difference in several capacities. All of those were on display Sunday.
Several times Jennings came close to blocking Rocca’s punts. When he wasn’t playing special teams, Jennings was accounting for 116 of Oakland’s 298 yards offense.
He rushed 15 times for 45 yards and caught all eight passes thrown his way by Matt Flynn for 71 yards. By comparison, he touched the ball only nine times in Oakland’s first three games.
“He went in there and ran the ball hard,” coach Dennis Allen said. “He did an admirable job of filling in for McFadden.”
Allen preaches the next-man-up philosophy, meaning when someone goes down with injury, the backup has to be ready to perform on short notice.
Jennings grew accustomed to that role during his four seasons as the primary backup to Maurice Jones-Drew in Jacksonville.
“It’s the mentality that you should have,” Jennings said. “There aren’t any say, per se, backups in the NFL. Those are the guys that are at home. Wherever they put me … I’m going to do whatever I can to help us win a football game.”
He came close Sunday. Barnes said the Raiders are plenty confident with Jennings playing a prominent role in the offense.
“He may not have the household name of an Adrian Peterson or Darren, but he runs hard like them,” Barnes said. “I’ll play with that guy any day of the week.”