On the surface, Darren McFadden had a breakout season in 2010. Upon further review, is there reason to believe that he won't be as productive this year?
Last season, Darren McFadden rushed for 1,157 yards and had a 5.2 yards-per-carry average. He also added 47 receptions for 507 yards. By any standards, it was a fine season by the third-year back.
Many wondered if the Raiders had drafted a first-round dud after McFadden's first two years in the NFL. As much as his seasons were marred by injuries, small and otherwise, McFadden had yet to display the explosive ability everyone was anticipating.
In 2008, McFadden's rookie year, he carried the ball 113 times for 499 yards, a 4.4 yards-per-carry average. He missed three games that year to injury and was dinged up for others.
McFadden's lone bright spot that year was a Week 2 game at Arrowhead Stadium when he rushed for 164 yards on 21 carries.
It was also the only time he would rush for more than 50 or 100 yards the entire year. Also included was his only rush for over 20 yards that year, when he broke loose for 50 yards.
The 2009 season was a disappointment to many McFadden supporters. He rushed 104 times for a measly 357 yards resulting in a 3.4 yards-per-carry average. McFadden missed four games that year to injury and, once again, struggled with dings and dents.
Again, all of McFadden's highlights came in one game. His Week 15 performance at Mile High was his best. He carried 12 times for 74 yards and had his only 20-plus yard carry when he broke a 28-yard run.
It was one of the two times he would rush for more than 50 yards and he never eclipsed the 100-yard mark in a single game all season.
Some might have labeled his 2010 season a make or break year for McFadden. The organization and fanbase watched as McFadden put all the criticism behind him.
He would carry the ball 223 times for 1,157 yards and a 5.2 yards-per-carry average even though he missed three games due to injury.
His best statistical performance came in Week 7, once again at Denver, when he rushed for 165 yards on just 16 carries and slashed the defense for 57 yards on one carry. It was one of his 14 rushes of more than 20 yards on the season, a stat that led NFL rushers.
He would post six 100-yard games and had three games that could have been over the century mark with one or two more carries.
Some credit for his success last year would go to the change implemented by Hue Jackson. The Raiders went away from a strict zone-blocking scheme on the offensive line to one that featured some power-blocking.
Critics of the Raiders say that McFadden's year was a fluke, with his 14 breakaway runs. If you remove those carries from his stats, he becomes rather ordinary with 210 carries for 775 yards, a 3.69 yards-per-carry average. Would you take away Chris Johnson's best rushes? How about Jamaal Charles?
The Raiders lost guard Robert Gallery in free agency and appear to be stronger despite the loss. Rookie Stefen Wisniewski has looked like anything but a rookie at Gallery's old position.
Jared Veldheer is working hard to improve on an up-and-down season last year at left tackle. He looks solid and is locked in as the starter.
Cooper Carlisle has found a renewed strength this year at right guard, and Bruce Campbell has been pushing him hard for playing time after recovering from a knee injury.
There are still question marks on the line as the Raiders return their starting center, Samson Satele. Satele often looked overmatched and was pushed into the backfield by big nose tackles. He has performed well this preseason and would provide a big boost if he can perform consistently.
It's only a matter of time before Joseph Barksdale or Stephon Heyer supplant Khalif Barnes at right tackle. While Barnes has been serviceable in the preseason, he has a penchant for false starts and looks awkward and uncoordinated at times.
McFadden will benefit from an improved passing game and is the clear-cut No. 1 offensive weapon. While he may lose some touches now that there are legitimate offensive weapons in Oakland, he might find bigger cracks of daylight in the stretched defenses.
If he remains healthy, I look for McFadden to silence his critics once again and improve on his success from 2010. I also look forward to watching him "finish" his runs off by inflicting some damage.