McFadden remains part of Raiders future

Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie remains
committed to Darren McFadden despite a disappointing 2012 season
and hopes a new offensive system helps the running back get his
career back on track.

McKenzie spoke to beat reporters on Thursday for the first time
since Nov. 30 and looked back at a disappointing first season in
Oakland and ahead to the future. He said McFadden will be part of
that future as he enters the final year of his contract.

”I’m confident Darren’s going to play his last season,”
McKenzie said. ”Regardless of what’s out there, we have no
decision to do anything with Darren.”

After struggling early in his career with injuries and a zone
blocking scheme used in Oakland, McFadden broke out as a star in
two seasons with Hue Jackson running the offense. He averaged more
than 5 yards per carry in both those seasons and was one of the
league’s top big-play backs.

But he reverted to his early career form last season under
coordinator Greg Knapp, who ran the same zone blocking system that
calls on backs to run laterally before making a cut upfield rather
than attack the line of scrimmage from the start.

McFadden averaged just 3.3 yards per carry this season – the
lowest ever for a Raiders back with at least 150 carries in a
season.

”It’s obvious that Darren is much better on certain types of
plays,” McKenzie said. ”That goes without saying. That’s how
you’ve got to do it. When you talk about being productive, when you
talk about offensively moving the ball, scoring points, getting
some plays out of your big-play guys, you’ve got to find ways to
let him do what he does best. We didn’t. We didn’t do that.”

Knapp was fired by coach Dennis Allen after a 4-12 season, along
with special teams coordinator Steve Hoffman, offensive line coach
Frank Pollack and linebackers coach Johnny Holland. McKenzie said
the Raiders are close to filling those openings and he hopes to
have everything finalized within the next few days.

McKenzie said he has talked to Norv Turner and Marc Trestman,
who both got other jobs, but would not name other potential
candidates. The Contra Costa Times reported that former St. Louis
head coach Mike Martz interviewed for the offensive coordinator job
and Jacksonville quarterbacks coach Greg Olson is reportedly also a
candidate.

After filling out the staff, the biggest task for McKenzie will
be upgrading a roster that lacked depth and stars in his first
season as the Raiders were hamstrung by having few draft picks and
a bloated salary cap.

McKenzie said he has more cap room to use on free agents this
offseason but believes the organization is a year away from having
the cap back in order.

”I’m looking for the future,” McKenzie said. ”We’re trying to
build something here. And with building, you can’t mortgage the
future. So we’re trying to lay down a good foundation, get the core
players that we think can build this team the right way and make
good, sound decisions, be it financial, the personnel, coaching,
whatever it is. You see the mistakes, correct it. That’s the only
way you’re going to get better, and that’s kind of our
philosophy.”

In other topics, McKenzie said neither he nor Allen has talked
to linebacker Rolando McClain since he was arrested in Alabama this
month for violating rules on car window tint and trying to lie to
police about his identity. McKenzie said he has no plans to talk to
McClain about the arrest.

McClain, a first-round pick in 2010, was a disappointment this
past season when he lost his starting job for ineffectiveness and
was suspended two games for conduct detrimental to the team.
McKenzie acknowledged it would have been complicated to release him
during the season because of salary cap ramifications but would not
indicate what McClain’s future was with the team.

McKenzie said he was pleased with the little he saw from backup
quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who started the final game of his
second season. Pryor threw two TD passes and ran for a third score.
McKenzie said he was happy with how Pryor protected the ball and
was intrigued by his mobility.

”You can see the plays, and when things break down, where he
can kind of create and do some things,” McKenzie said. ”But he
had a chance to make some throws and he did pretty good. I was
encouraged. Hopefully, the new offensive coordinator will find a
way to see what he can do best during this offseason and see what
he looks like in preseason games.”

NOTES: McKenzie said QB Carson Palmer is healing from cracked
ribs and a bruised lung that sidelined him for the season finale
and should be ready to be on the field for OTAs in May. … G Mike
Brisiel had ”major surgery” on an ankle injury that hindered him
all season. … RT Khalif Barnes had surgery on a triceps injury
and LB Miles Burris had arthroscopic surgery on an injured
knee.

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