Is Michael Bush ready to take the lead? He thinks so with his "... now it's my time" statement. And what does that mean for McFadden? The classic Raider aura of ambiguity has once again settled in.
Tom Cable pronounced them both capable of being #1's, which could be interpreted as, 'neither has yet to stand out to us.' And this must not be taken lightly. The most effective way to use running backs is multiple packages in which that allow them to warm up and see the defense. In college, it wasn't uncommon for McFadden to run a couple plays for 3 or 4 yards, then break free for 40.
But hey, maybe Tom Cable really meant it when he said they're both good enough to be #1's. I still have a problem accepting that, but that doesn't mean I don't think they can't be effective.
When you're thinking 'every down back,' I just can't see McFadden in that role. He struggles going up the middle, doesn't get low enough, doesn't absorb hits well and can't stay healthy long term.
What he can do is use the perimeter, run screens and play in the slot -- 3 things the Raiders are hesitant to do with him because it goes against the very reasons they drafted him.
So the Raiders need to choose between a philosophy on how and why they drafted McFadden, with what they can actually use him for. Will they play to McFadden's strengths? We just don't know. It seems the Raiders must first accept who McFadden is not before they accept who he is. If they just throw him up the middle for 2 and 3 yard gains and then pull him, well then FAIL. Because it must be said that playing a back like that can't be good for their psyche. But if they let him use his vertical speed on the corners and run in the slot, then maybe we can see some real effectiveness.
Now enough beating around the bush, Michael Bush that is. He believes he can be the #1 back. Well good, because it's no secret his attributes are more adept at being the #1 then McFadden.
Michael Bush has vision going up the middle. He can pick holes and use blockers to gain yards. Add that to the fact that Hue Jackson is a major proponent of 'power packages,' Bush's up the middle skills will be called on greatly this year. Plus, Bush can take a hit. This is essential to any up the middle runner. They must be able to stay low (relatively) in order to absorb impact.
He can also change directions better, which is saying something considering how much bigger he is than McFadden. Any #1 back must be able to go horizontal and right now Bush is the better of the two.
Which leads me to this tangent, neither Bush nor McFadden are particularly adept at going east-west, ala Ray Rice -- a guy who stays low and can get himself quick side to side steps.
Bush can do it to an extent, but he's got a lot of body mass to carry.
Which leads me to my final point. Will Bush be in shape?
He's always been in shape. But last season there were reports that the coaches really wanted him to get himself in peak physical condition. Is he going to do this? If not, I have serious reservations about him being our guy. But if we see a Michael Bush who looks like he took the off-season to really condition, then maybe we can see him take a decisive hold of that #1 spot. And that's what the 2010 season is all about, pessimistically-positive.
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