Of course the highlight of camp in Alameda, California has to be former Arkansas Razorback, and fourth-overall pick, Darren McFadden, who had a stellar college career and an equally impressive pre-draft combine.
The Raiders' mini-camp was the first chance for the coaching staff and public alike to get a glimpse of McFadden in the pros, and the young rookie only confirmed what most already knew, that he is fast and versatile.
Head coach Lane Kiffin, who helped mastermind the “Thunder and Lightning” offence of USC’s BCS National Championship, was “wowed” at his new running back’s skill set, and has already begun discussing his plans to utilize the two time Heisman runner-up’s unique and versatile abilities, stating that fans and opponents should expect to see him not only line up at halfback, but receiver and possibly quarterback on a few gadget plays.
Last season at Arkansas, McFadden showed the nation he was truly a “jack-of-all-trades” by not only running the ball for over 1,800 yards and 16 touchdowns, but receiving it for 164 yards with a touchdown, and throwing for four more.
So, with his diverse skill set added with the creative mind of Lane Kiffin, what can Raider Nation expect from their newest addition? Well, he is currently the Vegas odds-on favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year, and I personally don’t think it is that much of a stretch to believe in the hype.
McFadden will be the number-two running back by the start of the season, behind last year’s 1,000 yard rusher Justin Fargas. This will play a major role for McFadden, giving the rookie time to learn the playbook, and also reduce the wear and tear on his body early on, thus making him available and even more dangerous later in the season.
Expect his first year playing-time wise to be a lot like last year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year, Adrian Peterson’s. Starter Justin Fargas has durability issues, and even though he improved on his stats last season, I don’t expect his streak of injuries to end anytime soon. Fargas will get injured and McFadden will swoop in and take the starting role, returning Fargas to his previously held number-two status.
Darren McFadden will have another effect on this offense, beside his ability to run and catch the ball from the backfield. With his blistering 4.3 speed, incredible vision, and homerun ability, it won’t be long before defenses realize they need to start keeping a better eye on him. Expect Oakland’s opposition to be forced to stack eight or even nine in the box to prevent Oakland’s hydra-like running-back corps from terrorizing their defense, which in turn will help free up last year's first-overall pick, quarterback Jamarcus Russell, to make more plays to his new wide receivers and running back.
So once again, what can we expect from Darren McFadden?
Only time will tell, but this writer's predictions tend to lean towards 1,200 yards rushing with 10 touchdowns, and around 500 yards receiving with four touchdowns. If given the opportunity, a kick return or a punt return for a couple of touchdowns can be expected as well, thus clinching him the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Also lost in McFadden’s ever growing shadow is a sleeper, last year’s fourth-round pick Michael Bush, who many remember as a potential first-round pick before his broken leg suffered at the beginning of his final season at Louisville. Bush has shown he is fully recovered and eager to play. He has also impressed coaches with his appearance at the rookie mini-camp, and fans should expect to see Bush to play an increased role this season as a short-yardage and goal-line back, much like former Raider Zach Crockett.
And trust me, this is only the beginning for Bush and McFadden. With Lane Kiffin lurking, this offense is starting to look a lot like USC’s of a few years ago or the Raider’s of old with Garner and Wheatly. And let’s face it…it turned out pretty well for those teams!
Until next time Raider Nation!