Adrian Peterson

Darren McFadden will be back

By Guest Contributor Raiders Sports Guy

Many have called for Darren McFadden to be traded for draft picks, but that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.

ESPN’s Bill Williamson is reporting that McFadden’s agent, Ian Greengross, was told his client is in the team’s plans for 2012, and head coach Dennis Allen said, “As far as I’m concerned, he is.”

However, neither of those statements are overly committal.

McFadden is an incredibly talented back when he’s healthy and on the field. But he’s never played more than 13 games in a season, and he’s averaged just over 11 a season for his career.

The era of the running back who carries the ball 30 times a game effectively for several seasons seems to have passed. Adrian Peterson is the latest example of the frailty of running backs. Building a team around a running back seems sketchy, but building a team around a run-heavy strategy seems like a very good idea.

McFadden’s unique skillset makes him a great home run threat, but why test that by treating him like a workhorse? The past four seasons have proved that to be a terrible idea.

Just having a healthy Darren McFadden on the field for 90 percent of the offensive plays is as good as giving him the ball 30 times a game. The defense has to respect him because of his big play potential, which opens opportunities for the rest of the offense.

But why test it? Why not keep McFadden on the field most of the time while giving just as many carries to Michael Bush and Taiwan Jones?

I don’t understand the NFL idea of a “featured back”, and I invite anyone to explain it to me in the comments.

Does McFadden have to carry the ball 25 times a game for 16 games to be successful? Or could he exist also as a psychological weapon, just like our nation’s nuclear arsenal?

I think it’s time to change our benchmarks of a running back’s success. Maybe it’s unrealistict to expect a back to put together seasons like Eric Dickerson or Jim Brown did.

Today’s defenses are filled with athletic monsters who combine size and speed to the point that being tackled by them is like being in a car accident. Asking McFadden, he of the delicate joints, to repeatedly subject himself to that is going to result in more abbreviated seasons. He simply isn’t a daily driver.

But that doesn’t mean he’s without value. Hypothetically, if a running back can gain 3.5 yards a carry he can get a first down on three touches. Everything beyond that is a bonus. If McFadden can average 5 yards a carry and touch the ball 20 times, he’s still getting a hundred yards. I guess I’m promoting something like a pitch count on McFadden’s carries.

The Raiders need to retain Michael Bush, and failing that, Reggie McKenzie needs to keep his eyes peeled for a no-nonsense, physical back in the draft who will put miles on defenses, and not the other way around.

The bottom line is, the Raiders can still get a lot of value out of Darren McFadden, but he’s a unique talent and we need to adjust our expectations accordingly.

The Raiders Sports Guy, Francis Mayer, has extensive experience in radio as a producer in Bakersfield, as a former morning show host at 106.1 KRAB and now producing a local morning news show. He and BASG played on the same Babe Ruth baseball team as 13-year-olds, and Francis still talks about that time he struck out the side in his only pitching appearance of the season. He’s also a fan of the Oakland Raiders and Minnesota Twins, a strange pairing of teams that’s never been fully explained.

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