Oakland Raiders: How Offensive Injuries Will Affect Darren McFadden's Production
Darren McFadden is going to have a rough 2012 season.
Right now the Oakland Raiders are simply dealing with too many offensive injuries, and McFadden is their only real threat.
Yes, every team deals with injuries—some more than others—but the Raiders can't afford to try and overcome any more adversity. Per Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times:
The Raiders have been thin at wide receiver for most of training camp, with Denarius Moore and Eddie McGee missing considerable time with hamstring injuries. Well, the news that Jacoby Ford is going to miss some time with a sprained foot doesn’t do much to help the situation.
Same goes for running back, where Mike Goodson is recovering from weakness in his shoulders as a result of a hit against the Cardinals and Jones still hasn’t made it back from his lingering hamstring injury.
That's four key players needed to help quarterback Carson Palmer spread the field against a tough schedule. In turn, McFadden becomes a stronger emphasis for opponents to zero in on throughout 2012.
Defenses Won't Respect the Pass Nearly as Much
The Raiders' passing game certainly has potential with a healthy Ford and Moore, and especially so when you consider rookie Juron Criner.
Both Ford and Moore possess the speed to stretch out any defense and prevent that extra defender from loading the box to stop McFadden. Criner is impressive at getting yards after the catch, but being a rookie, he still must prove development.
Now, though, we can anticipate defenses playing more Cover 2 against the Raiders and acknowledging all bases to shutdown McFadden. Criner will always see single coverage and more run blitzing will occur up the middle.
Palmer displayed some promise for 2012 after his return in 2011, when you discount the four picks against Green Bay. Unfortunately, his preseason has been anything but impressive—and that only reduces the passing threat to any defense.
In short, Palmer has more pressure to prove Oakland's passing game early on. Facing more defenders near the line, though, it will be increasingly difficult to use the ground game for setting up the pass.
Opposing Offenses Push the Pace
In a pass-happy NFL, the Raiders have to find a way to keep pace with any offense.
But because of the potential lack of production facing the 2012 season, opponents can exploit Oakland's offense by airing it out themselves. Ranking No. 27 against the pass and run in 2011 and No. 29 overall, the Raiders definitely need to improve defensively.
Losing Stanford Routt was tough, however, safeties Michael Huff and Tyvon Branch are a great duo.
Still, proving the ability to stop opponents is vital to McFadden's production. A slower game pace significantly favors Oakland because of McFadden's ability. Even against stacked boxes, he can produce as long as the Raiders' defense can keep teams out of the end zone.
That is unlikely, though, as Oakland allowed 27.1 points per game last season (ranked No. 29) and allowed at or above that average nine times. Doing so will just take away from McFadden's opportunities to produce, and force the Raiders into more passing situations.
After all that has to be the game plan, because we've seen McFadden take over games before.
How does the Raiders' regular season finish?
Schedule is Simply Too Brutal
For one, Oakland has some stellar defenses to face in the AFC North, and the Jacksonville Jaguars outside the division.
Last season the Jags ranked inside the top 10 against the rush and pass despite the offense being one of the NFL's worst. And defense runs the AFC North, as it's been the forte of Pittsburgh and Baltimore for years.
Even Cleveland and Cincinnati ranked in the top 10 last season while making upgrades for 2012. So, when facing that entire division, as well as the Jags, don't anticipate excessive production from McFadden.
Within the AFC West, the Broncos and Chiefs present problems with stud front-seven players like Von Miller, Elvis Dumervil, Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson. Plus, both made impressive adds to the secondary.
When facing the NFC South and San Diego, McFadden will see more production. However, all five opponents are more explosive offensively. So unless the Raiders can keep pace with a passing game, McFadden won't enjoy extensive production.
The man also has yet to play a full 16 games.
His 1,664 total yards through 13 games in 2010 was proof of McFadden's elite ability, but he remains Oakland's lone offensive threat. And with opponents keying more toward shutting him down while facing this gauntlet schedule on top of injuries to the passing game, 2012 will be a long season.
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