"Football is a game of inches." That's the old dictum that comes to mind when thinking of how little of a margin it is between a winner and loser of an NFL football game. Even blowouts can result from a series of plays that barely go the winner's way.
In the case of Darren McFadden, it's one small change that can make him a superstar instead of a bust. It can easily be done too.
Since showing flashes in Week Two of 2008, McFadden hasn't done much. The only thing he's been consistent at lately is getting hurt.
The release of JaMarcus Russell has to have McFadden on notice. Raider Nation is sure to look closely at the next highest paid player that isn't doing much.
I first blamed it all on how the offensive line played and the Raiders' lack commitment to the running game. Those were problems, but a look at some tape told me that there was something McFadden could do to help his cause tremendously.
I listen to critics say, "He needs to get in the weight room and work on those skinny legs. That's why he's always hurt." He is doing that already, but Chris Johnson doesn't have big thighs and he didn't miss a game last year.
"All he has is that great speed going straight ahead. He needs to work on his agility so he can make people miss." He has plenty of agility. It takes more than that to make a man miss.
"He needs to run harder and keep his feet pumping to break tackles." There is something he can do about that, but it's not effort.
What is it?
It's actually the answer to all of his problems.
So what is it?
Running lower will answer all of his problems.
To make a man miss, he must be able to change direction at full speed. Sinking his hips is necessary to plant his foot and change direction at full speed.
When he runs tall then tries to sink his hips, which slows him down and the defender has time to figure make a play. Running low will allow him to plant his foot and go at full speed while the defender has no time for adjustments.
Running behind his pads will protect his legs. The less they get hit, the longer he stays on the field. It's actually two-fold because it's the same thing that will allow him to keep his legs driving.
Running low requires him to bend his knees. Bent knees are the only way his legs can even absorb upper body contact without going down easily or getting hurt.
If his legs are straight, the impact, or thousands of pounds of pressure, goes straight into his legs. The shock causes his legs to shut down on contact.
Straight legs can also cause hyper-extensions in knees and turns in ankles. McFadden is a 450 pound squatter. That's not incredibly strong, but strong enough. The reason why athletes do squats is so they can function better with bent knees anyway.
Running behind his pads will also cause him to bounce off of tacklers. Running high gives him no where to go but back and down. He also gets wrapped up easier that way.
That's the one change that can make McFadden more effective. He'll make people miss and that will help him last longer in itself. He'll drive for extra yards on contact and he won't get hurt every time he gets hit as well.
He should know this already, but sometimes guys that run a 4.2 don't get coached up. Perhaps he should have stayed another year in school to help his fundamentals.
It's too late, though, he's a Raider now.
But it's not too late to learn while in Raider Nation.
He's only 22.