Jamaal Charles vs Darren McFadden: Which RB Will Have Greater Impact in 2012?
Both the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders lost their starting running back for the season in 2011. The Chiefs lost Charles in Week 2 and the Raiders lost McFadden in Week 7. Neither team would play over .500 the rest of the way.
While the Chargers and the Broncos remain the favorite to win the division, both the Chiefs and the Raiders are confident they can make a run at the playoffs if their playmaking running backs stay healthy.
Which running back will have a greater impact on 2012 depends on a variety of factors like health, role and scheme.
Which running back will have the greater impact on his team in 2012?
Two years of superb production in the two-back system finally earned Charles the feature back role in 2011. It didn't last long. Charles tore his left ACL and missed the majority of the 2011 season.
The Chiefs added Peyton Hillis this offseason and figure to lighten Charles' load in 2012.
Perhaps returning Charles to role he had in 2009 and 2010 isn't a bad idea. Charles racked up over 3,000 total yards while averaging 6.2 yards-per-carry and 9.0 yards-per-catch over that time.
I'm sure the Chiefs would take 1,500 total yards and six touchdowns from Charles in addition to any production they can get from Hillis.
New offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has three years of experience—two in Cleveland and one in Miami. His rushing attack in 2009 ranked eighth with Jerome Harrison and Jamaal Lewis. In 2010, Peyton Hillis was the leading rusher in Cleveland, but the rushing attack ranked 20th overall.
Daboll revived Reggie Bush's career in Miami last season, but his rushing attack was still middle of the pack.
Given Charles' talent and a vastly improved offensive line, particularly on the right side, Daboll's rushing attach is poised for its best season.
A healthy season and Charles averaging over six yards per carry should give the Chiefs offense a fighting chance in the AFC West and have them in the playoff hunt once again, but the Chiefs have to be careful not to underutilized their star. It would be a costly mistake in Kansas City if Romeo Crennel and Daboll fall in love with Peyton Hillis and his career 4.2 yards per carry.
The Chiefs defense is likely to keep the score down, and that could create additional opportunities for the running game.
The question in Oakland is always how long McFadden can stay healthy, but the hiring of Greg Knapp as the offensive coordinator has prompted additional questions about how McFadden will adjust to the zone-blocking scheme that appeared to limit him during the first two years of his career.
Unlike Kansas City, the injury concern in Oakland is no less of a concern in 2012 as it was in 2011. The safety net of Michael Bush is gone, and the backups are now fumble-prone Mike Goodson and sophomore slasher Taiwan Jones.
McFadden's durability concerns and the untested backups have prompted mass speculation that the Raiders would sign free-agent running back Cedric Benson after the two sides expressed mutual interest.
Provided the Raiders don't sign Benson, the team would be rolling the dice on McFadden, Goodson and Jones to produce and stay healthy.
Aside from the injury concern with McFadden, the scheme is a big question. In 25 games in the zone-blocking system, McFadden averaged just 3.9 yards per carry compared to 20 games in the man-blocking scheme in which McFadden averaged 5.3 yards per carry.
McFadden and Knapp have both downplayed the transition back to the zone-blocking scheme, but it's still a legitimate concern.
Much of McFadden's lack of success could have had to do with the poor quarterback in Oakland, as his turnaround directly coincided with the signing of Jason Campbell. The poor offensive line could have also been a factor.
McFadden figures to get help from the passing game in 2012, as he will play with Carson Palmer for the first time. Palmer has never played with a back as dynamic as McFadden, and McFadden has never played with a quarterback as good as Palmer. The marriage ought to be a good one for the Raiders.
McFadden and the Raiders need the defense to keep the opposing offense from getting big leads and taking the running game away.
So which one will have a bigger impact?
Charles. The Chiefs defense will do a better job giving the running game opportunities than the Raiders, and Charles' injury in 2011 was also his first major injury, while McFadden has had numerous over the past four years.
The Raiders should also have more opportunities in the passing game than the Chiefs, and that could eliminate some of the need for McFadden to make an impact.
Both players are vital to the success of their team, but Charles makes the bigger impact.
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