At the moment, the Oakland Raiders sit at 1-3 and are in third place in the AFC West. They very well could be 3-1 and atop the division, but major issues have prevented Oakland from reaching its potential this season.
As bad as the cornerbacks have been this season, the real issue lies in the man who wears 20 on his jersey. Darren McFadden is on pace to have his worst season since 2009, when he was the third man in a three running back rotation. He is averaging just more than 50 yards per game on the ground and a horrendous 29.3 yards/game in the Raiders’ three losses. Oakland’s only win came when he ran for 113 yards on 18 carries.
If you notice the Raiders have done well when McFadden has run well. His season stats are buoyed by his one great game against the Pittsburgh Steelers and even then they are not super terrific. McFadden has the ability to wash away all of Oakland’s issues if he starts to run a lot better than he has in the first four weeks. The Raiders’ other issues won’t entirely vanish nor will they win every game McFadden runs well, but it certainly does not hurt.
The Pittsburgh game is a great example of this point. Ben Roethlisberger threw for more than 370 yards against the Oakland secondary, but the Raiders still won the football game. McFadden’s improved rushing helped to bring balance to the offense and keep the Pittsburgh defense on its heels. The Raiders’ secondary still played terribly, but McFadden helped to soften the blow by running for more than 100 yards and his only score of the season.
Balance is the operative word when it comes to the Oakland offense. Carson Palmer will not have as much success if he is constantly forced to throw the ball because he has an ineffective rushing attack. Palmer has done an excellent job taking care of the ball so far, but the more passes he throws the more likely it is he will throw interceptions. In addition, Dennis Allen has given up on the run if it isn’t working for McFadden. It might be beneficial for him to use Mike Goodson as well and see if a change of pace opens up the offense for McFadden.
As much as we would like to think McFadden needs the help of his surroundings to run better, it is really all in his control. He is the type of player who should make his teammates better and demand more carries to grind out against defenses. Obviously this is not the only solution, but it is a helpful start for a team teetering on the edge of disaster.
McFadden won’t help to make the secondary better, but he can help mask just how bad it is by keeping it off the field and running the rock like he’s capable of doing.