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The Denver Broncos turned out productive running games throughout the 1990s with inferior running backs thanks to the zone-blocking scheme.
Brian Billick broke down running backs in the Denver zone-blocking scheme with a great video for NFL.com back in 2008.
It's not hard to imagine McFadden having a monster year in the zone-blocking system given the improved talent on the offensive line.
Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp is a big believer in the zone-blocking scheme and how it benefits the running back and he outlined his experience with the zone-blocking scheme after a mini-camp (via insidebayarea.com)
I probably have been in a very unique situation from a coaching perspective in that I’ve gone to four different places and have implemented the zone scheme or it was already implemented when I was there. So when I was in Atlanta. Warrick Dunn had his career best season, running the zone scheme. That was with Alex Gibbs. Then when I came here, Tom Cable was the O-line coach with new linemen, and Justin Fargas runs for 1,000. I go up to Seattle and Justin Forsett averages 5.4 a carry and 600 yards in half a season. Then I go to Houston – all these places ran the zone scheme – and an undrafted rookie leads the NFL in rushing.
There is just no denying the success of the zone scheme when it comes to the running game. It works.
McFadden's lack of success as a rookie had more to do with the offensive line talent and turf toe in both feet than it did with scheme.
It's worth noting he had the exact same number of carries and touchdowns in the last zone-blocking season (2008) as the man-blocking season (2011).
The scheme actually plays to McFadden's strengths, which is one cut and run. What coach wouldn't want to get McFadden into the second level of the defense?
McFadden has never been a dancer and the zone-scheme relies on the a smart a decisive runner and by all accounts McFadden fits that description.
The Raiders also traded for Mike Goodson and he's already well-versed in the zone-blocking scheme from his time in Carolina. Similarly he's a one-cut runner that has enough speed to be a productive running back if McFadden gets hurt.
Taiwan Jones has the most to learn, but could be very good in the zone-blocking scheme if he learns to be more decisive. Decisive, smart and fast are probably the three most important qualities for a running back in the zone scheme in that order.
A properly blocked zone play will net at least a few yards if the running back is decisive. That same play might go for 10 yards if the back is also smart. That same play might go for 40 if the player is decisive, smart and fast.