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Oakland Raiders: Are Rushing Issues from the Zone-Blocking Scheme?

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 23:  Darren McFadden #20 of the Oakland Raiders runs with the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 23, 2012 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
D.J. O'ConnorSenior Analyst IIISeptember 13, 2016

Darren McFadden averaged over five yards per carry over the past two seasons while this season he is averaging only three yards per carry.  

What happened to "Run DMC"?

Most of the blame for Oakland's ground game struggling so far in 2012 has been put on new/returning offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, specifically his change from a power-blocking scheme in the running game to a zone-blocking scheme.

Is that really the only reason for McFadden's troubles, though?

Remember, the Raiders lost Michael Bush over the offseason to the Chicago Bears. Bush was an excellent change-of-pace back who ran for nearly 1,000 yards after McFadden went down in 2011 with his lisfranc foot injury.  

Losing a running back like Bush would hurt any team, and now opposing defenses can focus on only McFadden without Bush coming off the bench.

Also, the first time Knapp was Oakland's offensive coordinator, he used that same zone-blocking scheme to get the Raiders' rushing offense ranked in the top 10 in the NFL while Justin Fargas was their primary running back.

Then again, the Raiders had almost an entirely different offensive line in those days, with Cooper Carlisle as the only lineman left from Knapp's first stint in Oakland.  

The 2012 O-line seems better suited for power-blocking with Stefen Wisniewski, Jared Veldheer and Khalif Barnes/Willie Smith. Carlisle and recently-acquired guard Mike Brisiel are the two best-suited for zone-blocking.

Not only is three-fifths of the Raiders' offensive line better suited to power-block, but McFadden also prefers the power-blocking that he ran in his college days at Arkansas and for two years of the Hue Jackson offense.

But here's the thing: During the bye week, Dennis Allen said that the offense installed some of the "gap-scheme" plays that helped make McFadden so explosive over the last two years.  

Yet the Raiders' rushing offense continues to be one of the worst in the NFL.  

So what is holding the Raiders' ground attack back in 2012?  I wish I could tell you, but at this point it could be just about anything.

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