Can Darren McFadden Become an Elite RB for the Oakland Raiders?

Tim PetersonCorrespondent IOctober 26, 2010

Darren McFadden ties a team record with 4 TDs vs. Broncos
Darren McFadden ties a team record with 4 TDs vs. BroncosJustin Edmonds/Getty Images

The Oakland Raiders played the game of the year in their 59-14 blowout of the hapless Denver Broncos Sunday afternoon. But does this dominating performance mean the Raiders have turned the corner? Maybe, but first, Darren McFadden’s career day at Invesco Field:

The two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up from Arkansas ran wild over the Broncos defense. The fourth-overall pick ran 165 yards and scored four touchdowns to tie a team record—shared by Art Powell, Marcus Allen and Harvey Williams—but can the Raiders come to expect consistent production from No. 20 for the remainder of the season?

“I think that’s why we drafted him,” said Raiders coach Tom Cable to the San Francisco Chronicle. “His burst was there, he ran very physical [and] very tough. Having said that, Cable knows the key to Oakland’s season—and dare I say it, “the playoffs” (…cue, Jim Mora please), lies completely with the health of McFadden. “You just have to keep him on the field, healthy, this year he’s probably taken it to the next level.”

Meanwhile, team leader Nnamdi Asomugha said Sunday’s victory showed him something about the team, which could be a spring board for more success. And once again, the Raiders will try to win back-to-back games for the first time since 2008.

“In the fourth quarter, you could tell that we had imposed something on them [Denver] that they had never seen before, and they weren’t used to. That’s good. There’s times in the past where we’ve been on the other end of it and to see another team going through that made us feel like we’ve arrived.”

Then if that’s the case, will the Raiders follow up their greatest victory in nearly a decade, with another?

Pete Carroll’s Seahawks play this Sunday at the Coliseum,and the team is off to its best start since 2006. Seattle started the '06 and '05 regular season with a mark of 4-2. However, the difference with Carroll's team,is its reputation of being soft. The Seahawks are 1-2 away from Qwest Field this year.

Yes, the Raiders have been in this position before but were unable to get over the hump. Coming off a dramatic upset of San Diego—the Raiders marched into Candlestick Park and came out flat—their offense led by backup Jason Campbell was virtually non-existent against the 49ers. Campbell was confused for most of the day while throwing two interceptions, and the team was baffled by the 17-9 defeat.  

In that loss, Campbell produced the worst passer-rating of his career (10.7), but then amazingly turned it around the following week.By posting a QB rating of 127.9 at Mile High, Campbell warrants another look as the starter. He was poised, confident and played within the offense—throwing two touchdowns and zero picks in the rout.

So with a very important two-game home stand coming up, Oakland needs to decide if Campbell or Gradkowski can be the man. The team has a chance to contend for the top-spot in AFC West, and become a winner again. But if you thought being just a game manager was enough to get Campbell back into the lineup for good, think again.

In Monday’s press conference, Cable said that Bruce Gradkowski would remain the starter, if healthy. Gradkowski has a separated shoulder, and could be ready to go after further evaluations are done this week.

That’s the question Raider Nation: Who should be the starting quarterback for this team, a revitalized Jason Campbell or the ever-scrappy Bruce Gradkowski?