Stats show McFadden is Raiders' key

Published: Friday, Sep. 6, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 8C
Last Modified: Friday, Sep. 6, 2013 - 6:25 am

ALAMEDA – For all the subterfuge involved at quarterback for the Raiders, the numbers suggest it won't be Terrelle Pryor, Matt Flynn or a combination of the two that will determine whether they can beat the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

The antidote to what ails the Raiders is running back Darren McFadden.

"I think we all understand the significance of getting Darren McFadden going for our offense," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said Thursday.

McFadden has rushed for 100 or more yards 12 times and in those games has 1,590 yards, averaged 6 yards per carry, and his team has averaged 29.7 points per game with a record of 10-2.

In the 68 games where McFadden didn't gain 100 yards or didn't play because of injury, he has 1,744 yards, averaged 3.4 yards per carry, and his team has averaged 17.1 points with a record of 20-48.

Even in 2012, McFadden made it to 100 yards three times and the Raiders won all three games in a 4-12 season.

After being held out for the better part of all four preseason games, McFadden is eager to hit the ground running without having to think about it.

"Any time opening day comes, I'm like a kid on Christmas," McFadden said. "I feel like the best is yet to come. I haven't played a full season, so I feel that's what's coming for me. ... I love the offense that we're in, being able to run downhill."

Last season, McFadden gained 707 yards and averaged 3.3 yards per carry in an offense that relied heavily on zone blocking under former coordinator Greg Knapp. Zone runs call for backs to hesitate for an instant before making one cut upfield.

The result? McFadden struggled, as he did in his first two seasons when Lane Kiffin and Tom Cable instituted a zone scheme. It wasn't until Hue Jackson came in as offensive coordinator that he went directly to McFadden and asked for his favorite plays.

For two seasons, McFadden when healthy was one of the NFL's elite backs, gaining 1,771 yards in 20 games and averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

Back in the zone scheme last season, McFadden averaged 1.6 yards after contact (39th in the NFL), and only one of every 54 rushes went for 20 or more yards. In 2010 and 2011, one of every 15 runs went for 20 or more yards.

Offensive coordinator Greg Olson watched every one of McFadden's 769 career carries on tape and remade the offense with his most explosive player in mind.

"He's a guy that there may be some 2-yard runs, some 3-yard runs, maybe a 4 and then boom, you pop one," Allen said. "We're hoping we can give him a crease and he can break off a couple of big runs."

McFadden's tenure has been interrupted by a series of unrelated injuries – he's never played more than 13 games in a season – but he believes his luck is about to change.

Meanwhile, with Menelik Watson missing practice after a knee injury Wednesday, Khalif Barnes played left tackle with Tony Pashos playing on the right side.

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