Darren McFadden needs to get in gear to avoid a "Russell-like" fate!
The current offseason put together by the Oakland Raiders has inspired a ground swell of positivity and elation from the majority of Raider Nation. The great draft, the trade for Jason Campbell, and the cutting of dead, unproductive weight is very pleasing to most fans.
The move that seems to supercede all others is the release of former first overall pick, JaMarcus Russell. The No. 2 jersey-burning parties in the parking lot, the heaps of negative press, and the virtually singular voice of the fans demanding his release have finally paid off for an angry Raider Nation.
With Russell gone, who is the player toward whom Raider fans are likely to direct their anger next? Who is the player that is furthest from meeting the expectations of the fans?
The most likely candidate is former fourth overall pick, Darren McFadden.
McFadden has not performed anywhere near the potential he showed in college. The Doak Walker Award winner and two-time Heisman runner-up has yet to be what Al Davis drafted him to be. His numbers are pedestrian at best.
Some of his lack of production can be placed on the coaching staff and ownership. While the team drafted this running back with such great potential, the offensive line had not been addressed until this most recent offseason.
Combine that with the coaches not using McFadden in a way that maximizes his talent, and you're left with sub-par production from a talented back.
However, the blame can not be placed solely on the coaching staff. Some of it should fall on McFadden himself.
Coming out of college, McFadden was touted as the best running back available. I never believed this (I felt it was McFadden's teammate, Felix Jones), but that's what the "experts" were saying. Davis believed the hype and took McFadden fourth overall.
Based on his college numbers and his performance at the combine, all signs pointed to McFadden being exactly what he was advertised to be—an explosive back. His performance in the NFL suggests otherwise. He has not shown the explosion, speed, or power he did in college.
Let's look at his professional statistics:
In a possible 32 games over two seasons, McFadden has only played in 25 games and made just 12 starts. This is due to nagging injuries.
I feel that the injuries are due, in part, to his small-framed lower body. Narrow hips and ankles are causing him to be more injury prone than other backs of a similar size.
Rushing: McFadden had 856 yards on 217 carries for an average of 3.90 yards per carry, only five touchdowns and eight fumbles with a long run of 50 yards. He averaged 34.2 yards per game and only 8.7 attempts per game.
Receiving: McFadden had 50 catches for 530 yards, no touchdowns, and a decent average yards per catch of 10.6 and a long reception of 48 yards.
Are these the numbers of a fourth overall pick? Not in my estimation.
On the surface, there is a lot to like about McFadden's game. He shows good speed, (not great speed like we were led to believe), good agility, and good hands out of the backfield. These are all nice traits in an NFL running back.
On the flip side of that, there are some things to question about McFadden. He has a very difficult time with ball security, he shows below-average vision when searching for running lanes, and he has not shown any real power to break tackles. These are the traits that cannot be blamed on the coaching staff, but on McFadden himself.
Don't misunderstand, I don't think McFadden is a bad player at all. He isn't even remotely as disappointing as Russell, but he isn't as good as a fourth overall pick should be either.
The coach in me knows that all of the deficiencies in McFadden's game are fixable with coaching and hard work. It all depends upon how bad McFadden wants to be great. I haven't heard any bad reports relating to his work ethic.
However, what's troubling is that I haven't hear any thing good either. I haven't heard anything.
Some reports from training camp the previous offseason were praising Darius Heyward-Bey and Bruce Gradkowski for working very hard. Others were admonishing Russell for his lack of hard work.
I heard no reports about whether McFadden was working hard or not.
This troubles me because I expect to hear at least something about a fourth overall pick!
Compared to other high picks, McFadden has been virtually absent from media and fan reports since he was drafted. He has benefited from most eyes being on Russell and Heyward-Bey, allowing McFadden to simply avoid the scrutiny of critics that most top-five picks endure.
Russell is gone now; McFadden's cover is gone with him. Now it's time for McFadden to shine because everyone will be watching more closely than ever before. If he doesn't begin to stand out as working extremely hard, fans are likely to begin criticizing him as they did Russell.
I hope McFadden does step up and work his tail off in the coming months because I like his talent a lot, and do not wish to witness him suffer the same fate as Russell.
What do say Raider Nation?
Is McFadden on the proverbial hot seat?
Can he live up to the fan's expectations?
Let me hear you!