RB still part of team's future

Published: Friday, Jan. 18, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3C

ALAMEDA – Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie remains committed to Darren McFadden despite a disappointing 2012 season and hopes a new offensive system helps the running back get his career on track.

McKenzie spoke to reporters Thursday for the first time since Nov. 30 and looked back at a disappointing first season in Oakland and ahead to the future. He said McFadden will be part of that future as he enters the final year of his contract.

"I'm confident Darren's going to play his last season," McKenzie said. "Regardless of what's out there, we have no decision to do anything with Darren."

After struggling early in his career with injuries and a zone-blocking scheme used in Oakland, McFadden broke out as a star in two seasons with Hue Jackson running the offense. He averaged more than five yards per carry in both seasons and was one of the league's top big-play backs.

But he reverted to his early-career form this season under offensive coordinator Greg Knapp. McFadden averaged 3.3 yards per carry – the lowest for a Raiders back with at least 150 carries in a season.

"It's obvious that Darren is much better on certain types of plays," McKenzie said. "That goes without saying. That's how you've got to do it. When you talk about being productive, when you talk about offensively moving the ball, scoring points, getting some plays out of your big-play guys, you've got to find ways to let him do what he does best. We didn't. We didn't do that."

Knapp was fired by coach Dennis Allen after a 4-12 season, along with special-teams coordinator Steve Hoffman, offensive-line coach Frank Pollack and linebackers coach Johnny Holland. McKenzie said the Raiders are close to filling those openings and he hopes to have everything finalized within the next few days.

The Contra Costa Times reported that former St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz interviewed for the offensive coordinator job and Jacksonville quarterbacks coach Greg Olson is reportedly also a candidate.

After filling out the staff, the biggest task for McKenzie will be upgrading a roster that lacked depth and stars in his first season as the Raiders were hamstrung by having few draft picks and a bloated salary cap. McKenzie said he has more cap room to use on free agents this offseason but believes the organization is a year away from having the cap back in order.

"I'm looking for the future," McKenzie said. "We're trying to build something here. And with building, you can't mortgage the future. So we're trying to lay down a good foundation, get the core players that we think can build this team the right way and make good, sound decisions."

In other topics, McKenzie said neither he nor Allen has talked to linebacker Rolando McClain since he was arrested in Alabama this month for violating rules on car window tint and trying to lie to police about his identity. McKenzie said he has no plans to talk to McClain about the arrest.

McKenzie said he was pleased with the little he saw from backup quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who started the final game of his second season. Pryor threw two touchdown passes and ran for a third score.

The GM said quarterback Carson Palmer is healing from cracked ribs and a bruised lung that sidelined him for the season finale.

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