Who Should The Raiders Start at ...Running Back?

D.J. O'ConnorSenior Analyst IIIMarch 31, 2010

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 15:  Michael Bush #29 of the Oakland Raiders runs against the Kansas City Chiefs during an NFL game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on November 15, 2009 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

     Since Tom Cable said there would be a competition for QB, there have been hundreds of articles everywhere about who should line up behind the center.  But what about the guys lining up behind the QB?  Michael Bush and Darren McFadden.

     The Raiders haven't been a good passing team since the days of Gannon passing to Brown and Rice, with some Porter on the side.  The running game has been Oakland's strenght on offense in recent years.  In 2005, LaMont Jordan rushed for over 1,000 yards while Randy Moss complained.  In '06, Jordan shared the load with Justin Fargas (via injruy) and those two combined to cross 1,000 yards and Fargas did it alone in 2007.  Meanwhile, Aaron Brooks and Andrew Walter failed at QB.  McCown and Culpepper were somewhat better, but nothing to brag about.

     The Raiders of 2010 are very much the same.  The starting QB will either be injury prone or a turnover machine.  So the running game is as important now as it has ever been, so who should be Oakland's premier running back?

     Darren McFadden was drafted #4 in 2008 to be a lightning bolt that burned defenses on every carry.  He has been slowed by injuries and inconsistent blocking, along with poor strength.  He goes down to easy.  He was decent as a rookie, but went south in year 2.  His yards dropped from 499 to 357 while going from 113 to 104 on carries.  He fumbled 5 times in year 2, only 3 as a rookie.  His average per carry dropped a yard, from 4.4 to 3.4.  But McFadden is not entirely to blame, he has been sent between the tackles as opposed to more counters, sweeps and tosses.

     Remember Marcus Allen's "sophmore slump" in his hall of fame career?  McFadden could have had the same problem.  He should be used more as a receiver than running back.  But as a runner, he should be sent into the outside, not the middle of an 8 man box.  Let's hope Hue Jackson sees the problem.

     Michael Bush's only weakness... the way coaches use him.  After being drafted in Round 4 of 2007, he was on the IR as a rookie after breaking his leg in college.  When he got his chance, he exploded.  In 2008, Bush rolled to 421 yards on 95 carries.  He backed it up in 2009 with 589 yards on 123 carries.  His average rose from 4.4 to 4.8 and he has 3 TDs in each season.  Bush doesn't have a specialty, he can do it all as a running back.  He has blasted through tackles and soared to big gains with speed.  He has not had injury issues since the broken leg in college. 

     I would consider Bush the favorite going into training camp as the #1 running back.  McFadden should be used as a change of pace back that out runs a defense that is beaten up by Michael Bush.  The NFL uses a lot of running back duos and trios and sometimes it works and other times it faulters.  Chris Johnson and Lendale White couldn't get the Titans to the playoffs while Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice took the Cowboys into late January.