In 2012, the Oakland Raiders running game never got on track. As a result, offensive coordinator Greg Knapp was let go and his zone blocking experiment lasted only one year. The Raiders want to be a team that runs the ball effectively, not the team in 2012 that was forced to throw constantly. The proof is in the pudding that the team's that are on top of the league in rushing are the team's that are successful.
Running back Darren McFadden never got comfortable in the zone blocking scheme and had his worst yard per carry season of his career. He averaged a marginal 3.3 yards per carry, which is a full yard less than his career average of 4.3. The team only mustered two touchdowns from McFadden all season. Despite the down year, McFadden is the building block for the Raiders in 2013 and beyond. His success and the team's success are closely connected. In the Raiders four wins last season, McFadden rushed for over 100 yards in three.
With Tony Sparano now coaching the offensive line, his creativity could be a boost to McFadden. Sparano, along with new offensive coordinator Greg Olson , need to focus on utilizing McFadden in ways that he can be successful. As long as he is on the field, McFadden is a difference maker. However, he is yet to play a full season in the NFL, as he missed four more games in 2012 with a high ankle sprain.
Mike Goodson came to the Raiders in a trade last offseason from the Carolina Panthers and proved his versatility and productivity as the back-up running back. Goodson contributed as a kickoff returner as well as incorporating his running and receiving skills to the Radiers' offensive scheme. He was a great fit into the zone blocking scheme because of his patience and one cut ability. He averaged 6.3 yards per carry in 2013 and made 16 receptions including a 64 yard touchdown. He also missed time with a sprained ankle, but late in the year he served as a valuable reserve. He is the right price and the right production to continue to be a valuable member of the Raiders backfield in 2013.
Taiwan Jones was the Raiders' third running back entering this past season. When Goodson and McFadden both went out with high ankle sprains, Jones became the number one running back behind fullback Marcel Reece. Reece carried the load, while Jones served as a change of pace back with his speed. He only carried the ball six times all season and was eventually replaced by Jeremy Stewart as the primary running back. Whether it was fumbling issues or just inexperience, Jones could never gain the coaching staff's trust. Therefore he had little opportunities to contribute as a running back. However, he excelled on special teams, primarily on kick coverage. His speed is his best asset, and once he learns how to use it effectively, he could be a useful player for the Raiders. He will be in a battle with Stewart this offseason to see who can solidify the third running back spot.
Tags: Darren McFadden, Football, Greg Knapp, Greg Olson, Jeremy Stewart, Marcel Reece, Mike Goodson, NFL, Oakland, Oakland Raiders, Taiwan Jones, Tony Sparano