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NAPA – Chris Warren III wasn’t in the group of undrafted rookies to sign with the Raiders right after the NFL draft. Those guys get signing bonuses.
The University of Texas running back got a tryout. And zero guarantees beyond that. He showed will in the three-day rookie minicamp, hoping like heck he’d leave with a contract offer over a plane ticket home.
He got one, and has capitalized on the opportunity it presented. He’s firmly in the mix for a roster spot in a competitive position group. Odds are he’ll get one.
Warren has been strong running the football in practice and Friday’s preseason opener, when he averaged 6.6 yards per carry over 13 rushes. He’s getting better as a receiver and pass protector, skills mandatory in Jon Gruden’s offensive scheme.
“I have a well-rounded skill set, but it was developed to where it needed to be,” Warren said. “Iron sharpens iron and I believe I’ve gotten significantly better in my time here.”
Warren has been focused on improving technique and a little piece of advice from Marshawn Lynch.
“He tells me to be violent,” Warren said.
Warren’s a huge dude at 253 pounds, but doesn’t seek to punish opponents. Lynch wants to initiate contact, to beat up and wear defenses down.
“It’s something I’m trying to use more and more every day,” Warren said. “I’m more of a one-cut and go guy. I’m going to work on being a violent runner, because I run too high. I have to lower myself and be aggressive.”
Warren levied some punishment during last week’s joint practices with the Lions here in Napa. Gruden yelled at him for running high, and he stayed low and ran violent on the next rep. He upended Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis, and video of that collision has gone viral.
It made the rounds on social media and has shown up during Raiders film study.
“It has been played…significantly,” Warren said with a smile.
He doesn’t want to dwell on it, however, even if others do.
It could’ve happened the other way, but it didn’t. It went in my favor,” Warren said. “It happened, but that was last week. I can’t stay focused on that. My focus is always forward, trying to improve as an all-around player.”
Warren grew up with a template for success. His father Christ Warren Jr. was a productive running back in his own right, a three-time Pro Bowler who played for three teams over 11 seasons. He doesn’t try to emulate his father, instead working to hone his unique rushing style.
“I like that guy man,” Gruden said. “if you know anything about him his dad was one heck of a player at the Seattle Seahawks, Chris Warren, and he’s a big back. You don’t know it but he’s 253 pounds and can run four-five. He’s a hammer, he can really thump you and he’s got breakaway speed. But he’s improving in the passing game, he’s become more and more of a running back instead of just a runner. He’s becoming a receiver, blitz pickup, all those little details are improving but he’s got a lot of talent.”