ALAMEDA (AP) — For a player who generates so much attention from opposing defenses and gets paid handsomely by his own team, Marcel Reece somehow has become the forgotten man on the Oakland Raiders offense.
Reece has touched the ball just four times through two games and been on the field for just more than one-third of the offensive snaps as the Raiders have lost the first two games.
With an offense that lacks playmakers and has been struggling to score points, Reece would seem to be a prime option to spark a winless team.
Offensive coordinator Greg Olson said he always looks for ways to get Reece the ball but for some reason it just hasn’t happened much so far.
“We have to be a little bit aware early in the game of getting him involved early,” Olson said. “We only had 20 snaps again in the first half. There were things designed to him. ... We had some things there it just didn’t end up going there. We’ll continue to find ways to utilize Marcel.”
Reece said that any offensive player wants to get the ball as much as possible but said his frustration is solely on the Raiders’ record and not about how he is being used.
“I’m about winning,” he said. “That’s all it’s about for me. If we’re winning and I don’t touch the ball, I think that sits well with me. We haven’t won yet so I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help this team win and make plays on the field.”
Reece was given a three-year contract extension worth more than $11 million last September, making him one of the highest-paid fullbacks in the NFL. His nearly $4 million cap charge this season is the second highest of any Oakland skill position player, trailing only backup quarterback Matt Schaub.
Reece’s few touches and limited time are somewhat typical for fullbacks, who have become almost an endangered species in this wide-open passing era that has teams often using three or four wideouts at a time.
But Reece is far from a typical fullback. He is a converted college wide receiver who had the speed to outrun the New York Jets defense on a 63-yard touchdown run last year and the hands to catch 52 passes in 2012.
In a sign of his versatility, Reece spent more than one-third of his snaps last year lined up as a wide receiver or tight end, according to Pro Football Focus.
“He’s a real tough matchup,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “It’s hard to find guys that have his skills that you can put on. You can put faster, quicker guys on him that probably don’t have his size and you can put bigger guys on him that probably don’t have his speed and quickness.
It’s a tough matchup. Obviously, we’ll be challenged trying to get him covered.”
Making Reece’s lack of opportunities more puzzling is the fact that he has excelled in the few chances he has had as Oakland’s feature back. In five starts over the past two seasons at tailback, Reece has averaged 123.4 yards a game — a mark that would have ranked fourth in the NFL last year.
In his one start last year, he rushed for 123 yards on 19 carries against a stout Jets defense that ranked third in the league in run defense in 2013. No other back in the league gained more than 81 yards on the ground in a single game against the Jets.
Yet when the Raiders opened the season against New York this year, Reece got only three offensive touches while the team averaged just 1.7 yards per carry.
“Marcel’s a player that we think can help us,” coach Dennis Allen said. “We’ll try to use him the best that we can and give us a chance to have success.”
NOTES: The Raiders waived DE Shelby Harris and cut LB Kaelin Burnett off IR. ... RB Maurice Jones-Drew returned to practice for the first time since injuring his right hand in the opener. ... DE Justin Tuck (illness) and CB Carlos Rogers (knee) were also back after sitting Wednesday. ... WR Rod Streater (hip) and LB Sio Moore remain sidelined.