GLENDALE, Ariz. — George Atkinson III hadn’t opened his phone yet, but he was getting ready to check in and see what his dad had to say.
Atkinson had the most electrifying night of his NFL career, even if it just was in a preseason game. The Granada High product and son of a Raiders legend, Atkinson exploded twice in Oakland’s 31-10 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Friday.
First, it was a 53-yard run that saw him use some cut back moves after getting the handoff and then outrun the defense to the edge, cut up field and leave the defense in his dust.
His second touchdown may have even been better. He broke free up the left side, then used another nice cut back move to scoot past a defender for the final 10 yards of that 35-yard touchdown. He finished with 97 yards and the two scores on five carries.
Atkinson was going to call his dad watching back at home before hopping on the plane and was expecting to get some critiquing.
“I’m sure he’s going to get on me for some runs I should’ve made a little better, some decisions,” Atkinson said. “There’s always room to get better.”
Atkinson believes he’s showing more patience in reading his blocks this year and has improved those lateral moves, rather than just being a pure sprinter. He credited the work he’s done with running backs coach Bernie Parmalee.
“Coach Bernie really emphasized in the offseason reading the defense and knowing the blocks before they happen and trusting in the line,” Atkinson said. “That’s all I did tonight and it was a great night.”
Coach Jack Del Rio spoke highly not just of Atkinson’s running, but also his contributions in special teams to a solid kick coverage unit.
“He is very good and very hungry to be a part of the team,” Del Rio said. “He has improved. There is no question about his speed and his eagerness to help on teams. I think where we need to see growth with him will be in pass protection. We will give him more opportunities to grow in areas like that. George is a great young man and working his tail off.”
Atkinson has spent most of the past two years on the practice squad, aside from a brief activation in 2014. His dad, a Raiders safety from 1968-77, is pushing him even more this year.
“He’s definitely been in my ear,” Atkinson III said. “This year, he’s like, ‘You have to buckle down now. As soon as you get the opportunity you need to let the coaches know you can make the squad’.”