Oakland Raider Darren McFadden Must Run Now or Forever Hold His Bust Label!

Carl CockerhamSenior Analyst ISeptember 5, 2010

Oakland Raider Darren McFadden Must Run Now or Forever Hold His Bust Label!

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    Darren McFadden is now under the heat lamp.

    He has rushed for 856 yards and 5 touchdowns with a 3.9 average in his first two years in Raider Nation. During that time, McFadden also caught 50 passes for 530 yards.

    Those are acceptable rookie totals but those are his first two years we're talking about. Much of his first two years were marred by injury and playing in an ineffective offense.

    This is year three for him so he somehow needs to show he can stay healthy and produce.

    Otherwise the bust label is coming.

    There are many factors involved in where he's been and where he's going.

    Turn the page to find out what they are.

The Beginning

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    In week two of the 2008 season, Darren McFadden gave Raider Nation a glimpse of what he could do. He had a 164-yard rushing performance that included a 50-yard run and a 19-yard touchdown run against the Kansas City Chiefs.

    All in Raider Nation were excited as they started to compare McFadden to Minnesota Viking star Adrian Peterson. The Oakland Raiders then had a young super-star on their hands for years to come.

    Or so they thought.

The Disappointment

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    McFadden's comparisons to Peterson were short lived.

    Shortly after his breakout game, it was discovered that he had turf-toe. That would lead to a shortened rookie season in which he still managed  a 4.4 rushing average.

    From there, it just got worse.

    In 2009, McFadden's injuries caused him to miss even more time. When he did play, he bore no resemblance to the young man that had his breakout party in Kansas City the year before. 

    McFadden's knee and shoulder problems led him to a 3.4-yard average in 2009. That isn't the most impressive average in the world so many in Raider Nation began to wonder.

    Is McFadden a bust?

What's The Problem?

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    So now the Raiders have a 6'2, 210 pound running back with 4.27 speed that has done next to nothing. Not only is he injured often but he doesn't do a whole lot when he does play.

    This guy was a Heisman runner-up and Doak Walker Award winner so he has talent. McFadden has even given Raider fans a brief flash of that talent in the NFL

    He's known as a hard worker so work ethic isn't an issue.

    McFadden looks like a poster child for what an NFL running back should look like.

    So what's holding him back?


Problem One: (Out Of His Control) Play Calling

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    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    McFadden isn't Mr. Ground and Pound so a steady diet of McFadden up the middle isn't the way to go. He has to go inside sometimes to keep the defense honest but not all the time.

    The Raiders have Michael Bush for that anyway.

    I don't see Randy Moss running a bunch of slant routes so why was McFadden running up the middle when he did get the ball. McFadden has 4.27 wheels so he should be used to attack the perimeter.

    Most of his inside carries should be traps and draws.

    McFadden is also a great receiver and a match-up nightmare linebackers.

    More passes should have been thrown his way.

Problem Two: (Out Of His Control) No Passing Game

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    When your quarterback is the worst ever, running the ball will be hard. All your offense will see is eight and nine man fronts all day as they dare your quarterback to beat them.

    You don't need Peyton Manning to be your quarterback to run the ball but he must be able to do something. The opposing defense recognizing the running back as the only threat isn't helpful toward him.

    I would put 10 in the box against Jamarcus Russell.

Problem Three: (Out of His Control) Justin Fargas

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Justin Fargas was in the way last year so neither Bush or McFadden had enough carries to do major damage. I know Fargas is beloved in Raider Nation but he really doesn't have running back talent.

    He was the heart and soul of an offense that had no heart and soul.

    I thought it hurt the development of Bush and McFadden.

    Fargas' 138 carries should have been divided among the other two.

    As it was, McFadden averaged 6.5 carries per game.

    A running back can't even warm up on that.

    McFadden did get hurt but he didn't get much of an opportunity when he did play.

Problem Three: (Out Of His Control) The Offensive Line

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    The Oakland Raider offensive line was not a good run-blocking unit. Michael Bush averaged 4.8 yards per carry but that was based mostly on two big games.

    There was no such thing as a consistent running back in Oakland and the offensive shares in the blame.

    A big reason for the lack of running success in Raider Nation is Samson Satele. Most of the Raider opponents including all of the AFC West opponents run the 3-4 defense.

    Everyone that knows the game of football knows that you cannot run the ball against a 3-4 team unless you block the nose tackle. Samson Satele lost a large portion of his battles at the point of attack.

    He also led the league in tackles given up behind the line of scrimmage.

    The only time Cornell Green won his battle at the point of attack is when he held. They yellow flag was then thrown and the ball goes back 10 yards to replay the down.

    Robert Gallery was hurt but Langston Walker did a good job filling in for him. Cooper Carlisle gave us a couple of good years but came up with a flat tire in 2009.

    Marion Henderson is a decent run-blocker but he isn't dominant. I don't think there is any way that two  

Most Important Problem: (His Control) Running Posture

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    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    McFadden's main problem is he runs too high going through the line of scrimmage as seen in the photo.

    Perhaps he did too much track work with Michael Johnson and forgot about his football fundamentals. To run at your max velocity, you must run up tall and open up your stride.

    Running football, the only time you want to be up high is when you've gotten past the defense.  

    It could also be a problem brought on by his coming out of school early. It usually takes a while for a collegiate coach to correct these flaws in the athlete.

    The problem with McFadden was the coaches had to play him as is with the speed he has.

    The problem of running too high is three-fold.

    Making people miss is impossible because you need leverage to change direction fast. Changing direction at full speed requires you to sink your hips and you have to slow down to sink them if you run high.

    Now the defender has plenty of time to react.

    You will also have problems pushing the pile and breaking tackles if you run too high. Running low requires you to have bent knees and bent knees are need to absorb a violent collision.

    Straight legs can't absorb violent collisions so the shock causes those straight legs to go dead or collapse. This is what causes McFadden to go straight down on the first contact.

    Then there are the injuries.

    Running low helps with upper-body contact because your bent knees can absorb it without hyper-extension or twisting. It also keeps your pads down to stop your legs from getting hit to cause injuries.

Problems Beyond His Control Corrected

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    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Hue Jackson has come from Baltimore with an offense conducive to what McFadden does well. Remember, Ray Rice caught 70 balls last year for the Ravens.

    Jackson has also brought some power-blocking plays to Raider Nation to help. We've already seen a few tosses where guards pull to help McFadden to the outside this preseason.

    Jared Veldheer is a big, strong center that was just named the starter. The Raider's run-blocking  problems appear to be over as they have a better match-up for opposing nose tackles.

    Langston Walker is a mauler at right tackle to that will also assist in the running game. The Raiders now only need to find someone to replace right guard Cooper Carlisle.

    I hope Bruce Campbell is ready soon.

    The topper of all this is that the days constant eight and nine man fronts are over. They have to mix it up now as Jason Campbell has brought his strong and accurate arm to Raider Nation.

    The Raiders will dare opposing Defensive Coordinators to run those eight and nine-man fronts.

    Justin Fargas is now gone and that leaves more carries to split for Bush and McFadden. Bush is even going to be out the first month of the season so he will have ample opportunity to show what he has.

Did McFadden Change What He Could Change?

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    Tom Cable spoke of how McFadden had worked very hard to improve.

    How effective was it?

    Did he do the right things?

    Everyone in Raider Nation talks about McFadden's skinny legs and his need for squats. I'm not going too far into that because Chris Johnson doesn't have the thickest legs in the world either.

    If you don't have bent legs, it doesn't matter how strong they are anyway. The whole reason why football players strengthen their legs is so they can keep them bent.

    McFadden hasn't played too much in the preseason but looks as if he has made the adjustment.

    What does this mean?

    We will find out next week.