This off-season featured the Raiders releasing fan favorite and former 1000 yard rusher Justin Fargas. Fargas earned the job with hard nosed running despite a lack of size and breakaway speed. In the past three years Fargas has accumulated over 2300 yards on the ground despite the Raiders running back by committee approach.
Where will the nearly 800 additional rushing yards come from this season?
The logical answer is that Michael Bush and Darren McFadden will split those yards right down the middle. McFadden was the apple of Al Davis' eye three years ago he certainly hoped to see the second coming of Adrian Peterson.
Despite his rumored character flaws, the Raiders gambled on the versatile McFadden to be their newest home run hitter. His character has been the least of their concerns. To his credit, by NFL standards McFadden has been a saint.
The only real comparison to Adrian Peterson has been in terms of ball control. Darren McFadden had three costly fumbles in a 23-3 loss to Denver in their first meeting. He fumbled five times last season on only 104 carries. His yards per carry dropped to 3.4 and he failed to display the ability to keep his feet after a hit. To make matters worse, McFadden has yet to show the top end speed and shiftiness to outrun and avoid the second tier of defenses.
Common sense should tell us Darren McFadden will not be the featured back in Oakland.
But does Al Davis base his decisions on common sense? He's always been a sucker for physical freaks. In this case, I don't think Al calls the shot. Darren won't be the featured back.
This assumption comes not only from McFadden's shortcomings, but from his strengths as well. McFadden is an outstanding receiver and has shown the ability to be the versatile athlete that is such a trend in the NFL the past two years.
He can throw and run out of the "razorback" formation and can become a dangerous 3third down change of pace to Michael Bush. He can move around pre-snap and be flanked out wide to force coverage with a linebacker. His size makes makes him a solid target for Jason Campbell.
My guess is we'll see McFadden used as a decoy more often than not. Whether he's earned it or not, he will be a marked man by defenses and will likely be used to keep defenses off balance.
In fact, training camp has only solidified this theory. He has more training camp grabs than most of the receivers to this point.
The real thunder in this years rushing attack should be Michael Bush. In two seasons in Oakland, Bush has never averaged less than 4.4 yards per carry and torched opponents for a 4.8 YPC last season.
While, McFadden's longest rush last season was 28 yards and 48 the year before, Bush has taken a handoff 60 or more yards each of the past two years. In over 250 career touches, he has only 3 fumbles. He's a bruiser and will soften defenses to make McFadden that much quicker when he touches the ball.
They both have a history of injuries--Michael Bush has played in 31 of 32 games since his rookie season and McFadden has seen action in only 25 of those games.
For fantasy owners its a tough pill to swallow, but for whatever reason neither of these two have been particularly lethal around the goal line. At times, McFadden has shown the ability to hit the hole a little quicker and get his nose into the endzone better than Bush. Tom Cable is still searching for his short yardage guy, but you can bet Michael Bush will have every opportunity to earn it.
For Raiders fans there is every reason to expect the offense to fun more smoothly this season. With no number two at the helm, there should be more respect given to the passing attack and open up more room for both running backs.
Assuming there are no injuries, look for a 1000 yard season out of Michael Bush with around 30 receptions while McFadden stays around 500 rushing yards and maybe 50 receptions. Look for McFadden to have more yards in the air than on the ground. After all, he averaged 11.7 yards per reception last season.
If you're playing fantasy football my money is on Michael Bush. If you just like watching Raider football they should neither one disappoint.