Anyone wondering what the Oakland Raiders’ intentions were for running back Darren McFadden should have a much better idea following the team’s 26-13 loss to the San Diego Chargers. In his first game back following a three-week absence due to an ankle injury, McFadden had the impact of a windbreaker in a tornado.
In what is likely his final road game in a Raiders uniform, McFadden finished with a meager eight rushing yards on four carries. The soon-to-be free agent was stuffed for no gain the first time he carried the ball and was barely heard from after scoring on a five-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Rashad Jennings, on the other hand, continued to be the more effective runner of the two. Jennings, who will also be a free agent at season's end, ran for 45 yards and had another 27 through the air. As he has all season, Jennings ran hard, moved the pile and helped provide a good balance to the offense.
Neither the workload nor the production of either player is surprising.
Oakland has gotten next to nothing out of McFadden in the final year of his contract. Barring a shift in pattern during the Week 17 game against the Denver Broncos, it’s possible, if not likely, that McFadden will finish with fewer than 400 yards rushing for the second time in his six-year NFL career.
That, coupled with his lengthy history of injuries, should be more than enough to convince Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie not to re-sign McFadden in the offseason. McFadden has repeatedly stated his desire to return, but McKenzie has to resist the urge if he indeed has one.
The Raiders changed their blocking schemes this season specifically to accommodate McFadden, yet he has repeatedly failed to generate much offense. Although he made a nice run on his touchdown, the Chargers kept McFadden bottled up near the line of scrimmage whenever he touched the ball.
Contrast that to Jennings, who had five carries of five yards or longer. He also caught all three of the passes thrown his way, while McFadden let an easy throw from quarterback Matt McGloin slip through his hands.
Jennings also runs with more of a purpose than McFadden seems to, which makes him a much better fit in Oakland’s system. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson prefers a physical ground game, and Jennings allows the Raiders to have that, whereas McFadden would seem to be better working in space where his speed can be an advantage.
There is the sentimental side of things. McFadden has generally been one of Oakland’s most popular players despite carrying the label of underachiever. He’s also very active in the community and is one of the few players remaining on the roster with ties to Al Davis.
Mark Davis, Al’s son and the team’s current owner, is also very fond of McFadden, and like his father, he has an affinity for players with speed.
McFadden, however, is a pony not worth chasing.
All information and quotes used in this and any report by Michael Wagaman were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.