McFadden fails to deliver big plays for Raiders
Darren McFadden entered the NFL a year ago with a reputation for
being a big-play running back capable of breaking off a long
touchdown on almost any play. The Oakland Raiders are still waiting
for that to materialize at this level.
McFadden has been unable to get loose at all this season to show
off his breakaway speed. The lack of big plays from McFadden is
just one of the reasons the Raiders have struggled so much
McFadden has carried the ball only 80 times for 251 yards for a
3.1 yards per carry average this season, while missing four games
with a knee injury.
“I’ve been sitting back waiting, waiting for them to call my
number,” McFadden said. “Just trying to make the best of it
whenever they do.”
Among backs with at least 50 carries, only San Francisco rookie
Glen Coffee is averaging less than 3.1 yards per carry. What’s been
particularly frustrating for McFadden and the Raiders has been the
lack of explosiveness from a back who ran for 41 touchdowns in
three years at Arkansas, including nine that went for at least 50
“This is the NFL. I think your ability to make people miss at
that level is much different than this level,” coach Tom Cable
said. “People are more pure tacklers, surer tacklers and it’s just
a matter of getting into space and creating it. We’ve had a few
weeks now where he’s been able to stay out and be healthy and not
have to come out of games so I think the more that happens the more
he’ll get back to where he wants to be.”
It was that home-run threat that led the Raiders to draft
McFadden fourth overall in 2008 – 20 spots ahead of Tennessee’s
Chris Johnson, who leads the NFL with 1,626 yards rushing this
season and five touchdown runs of at least 50 yards.
The Raiders have often been criticized for drafting speed over
production, most recently with their choice of receiver Darrius
Heyward-Bey over Michael Crabtree. But even when they passed up on
Johnson and his 4.24 time in the 40 for the more productive
McFadden, it hasn’t worked out.
McFadden’s longest run of the season has only gone for 15 yards.
There are 132 players with longer runs this season. In fact,
McFadden hasn’t had a run of at least 20 yards since the second
game of his career. Since having four long runs that game against
Kansas City, McFadden has been unable to get loose.
He was slowed by a pair of turf toe injuries and a bum shoulder
as a rookie and injured his knee this year. But even when healthy,
he hasn’t been able to come through.
“Think about his time both last year and this year,” Cable
said. “It’s been in for three, maybe four games at most and then
back out for a month. I think it’s just that consistency of being
healthy and being able to feel it and stay in there.”
McFadden made perhaps his biggest contribution of the season in
last week’s loss to Washington, catching two long passes after
lining up at receiver. He went 48 yards on a slant pattern in the
first quarter and then caught a 26-yarder from Bruce Gradkowski on
a slant-and-go on the final play of the opening quarter.
After JaMarcus Russell replaced an injured Gradkowski to start
the third quarter, McFadden didn’t get any more opportunities
lining up wide.
“It was the biggest yardage game I’ve had in a while,”
McFadden said. “It just felt great to get out there and at least
rip off a big play, whether it was running the ball or receiving.
It just felt good to get that in and get out there, move the ball
around to me a little bit, felt good to move around out
Cable said he’d like to spread McFadden out even more this week
against Denver if the circumstances dictate it, allowing the
Raiders to get another potential playmaker on the field.
“We have done a little bit of it,” said teammate Justin
Fargas, who lines up at running back when McFadden goes out wide.
“It is something that I feel would be to our advantage to
NOTES: TE Zach Miller did not practice as he recovers from his
second concussion of the season. Miller will undergo tests Friday
to determine if he can play this week. … WR Darrius Heyward-Bey
(foot) did not practice. … DE Matt Shaughnessy was limited by a
strained groin, but looked to be fine, Cable said.