Part of the Bay Area News Group

Time to turn McFadden loose

By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008 at 1:41 pm in Oakland Raiders.

The Raiders are headed toward the last quarter turn in need of a finishing kick if they hope to enter the 2009 offseason feeling as if they accomplished anything but another lost season.

Four more games, including Thursday night’s NFL Network telecast against the San Diego Chargers, who have beaten the Raiders 10 consecutive times dating back to 2003.

Four games for Darren McFadden, whose season was sabotaged by two cases of turf toe, to make some big plays and leave a lasting impression.

McFadden has missed three games outright and had at least five others where he was either injured or recovering from being injured. As a result, he trails six running back taken after him in the NFL draft in rushing.

The most productive rookies are Chicago’s Matt Forte of Tulane (second round, No. 44 overall) with 1,012 yards, Tennesee’s Chris Johnson of East Carolina (first round, No. 24 overall) with 958, Houston’s Steve Slaton of West Virginia (third round, No. 89 overall) with 904, Detroit’s Kevin Smith of Central Florida (third round, No. 64 overall) with 621, Carolina’s Jonathan Stewart of Oregon (first round, No. 13 overall) with 586 and Baltimore’s Ray Rice of Rutgers (second round, No. 55 overall) with 423.

McFadden has handled the ball, rushing and receiving, far less than any of the above backs, with 87 rushes (for 405 yards) and 17 receptions (for 158) _ 104 touches out of 691 offensive plays the Raiders have run this season.

The good news is McFadden had a better fate than first-round pick Rashard Mendenhall, the Illinois back taken No. 23 overall who had his season ended with a broken shoulder, or college teammate Felix Jones, whose torn toe ligaments terminated his season after 30 carries for 266 yards and an 8.9 yards per carry average.

Visual evidence suggests McFadden is as close as he has been all season to the back who had 164 yards on 21 carries against Kansas City in Week 2, the only time he has handled the ball more than 20 times in a game.

The Raiders have been careful to ease McFadden back into action rather than re-injure his turf toe, but it’s time to begin getting some use out of an investment that could total $60 million.

Coach Tom Cable estimated that McFadden was probably on the field for “30 or 35 of the Raiders 57 offensive plays against Kansas City.

Considering the Raiders’ offensive struggles, and McFadden being their most dangerous weapon, it’s hard to fathom why he ever leaves the field at all now that he’s somewhere approximating 100 percent.

As much as Cable believes Justin Fargas to be “one of the bricks in the foundation” of the Raiders, McFadden and Russell represent the future, and that’s what Oakland is looking toward with a 3-9 record heading into the last four games of the season.

Following the Raiders’ win over Denver, Russell talked about how much McFadden changes things merely because of his presence on the field. His location and position is the first prioirty of any defensive scheme.

Considering how little production the Raiders have gotten from their wide receivers, adding into the mix that Ashley Lelie is questionable because of persistent headaches and that rookie Chaz Schilens has been bothered by a bad ankle and Achilles’ tendonitis, it makes it that much easier to slide McFadden into the slot or have him split wide on plays when the Raiders are playing Fargas, fullback Luke Lawton, or both.

In that role, a reverse like the one the Raiders ran with Johnnie Lee Higgins becomes an option, with McFadden as the ballcarrier.

As it stands, McFadden hasn’t had more than 22 touches in a single game, that being the Chiefs game in Week 2. His next highest is 17, a week later against Buffalo, when he was slipping and sliding all over the artificial surface and struggling with turf toe.

Going into the last four games, McFadden ought to be seeing the ball a minimum of 22 times per game. With fifteen to 18 rushes per game, throw in five or more receptions, and McFadden can join the rookie party and give the Raiders a glimmer of hope toward next season.

Cable said the Raiders have been building toward giving McFadden an increased workload.

“To get everything put in you can’t just throw it in all at once,” Cable said. “You’ve got to progressive build it, build it, and we did that again this week.”

When asked if McFadden could be the most important skill position player, Cable still sounded inclined to spread things around as much as possible.

“With (McFadden) and JaMarcus continuing to get better, I think that nucleus right there, with Fargas running the ball so hard . . . then you just need a receiver or two to step up and make some plays,” Cable said.

Another option _ put McFadden to work. Run him out of the I formation, give him some toss sweeps as a single back, throw him screen passes, line him up in the slot and hit him in the seam. Make him the centerpiece of the offense for the next month.

And one more thing _ if you line up him up as the shotgun quarterback in the “Stallion,” “Wildcat” or whatever the Raiders are calling it, do something other than the option handoff with Fargas that has made the Oakland version of the formation inferior to those run elsewhere.

News and notes from Wednesday’s walkthrough:

– Center Jake Grove (calf) and Ricky Brown (groin) are out, with both players expecting to be back on Dec. 14 against New England. Grove said he is in the process of strengthening the calf and that it wasn’t quite right on Monday.

– Lelie is listed as questionable with headaches, with Cable being a little light on the details. He said he didn’t know if they were migraines, and said Tuesday he didn’t think Lelie was hurting because of a blow to the head.

If Lelie can’t play, it could mean more time for Johnnie Lee Higgins or Todd Watkins, unless Cable opts to move Schilens to split end from flanker.

– The only players on the Raiders who have experienced a win over San Diego are Nnamdi Asomugha, Justin Fargas, Ronald Curry, Marques Tuiasospo and specialists Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler. All were suited up for the 34-31 overtime win over the Chargers on Sept. 28, 2003, and only Tuiasosopo did not play.

The Raiders prevailed on Janikowski’s 46-yard field goal in overtime. Rich Gannon completed 26 of 43 passes for 348 yards and touchdowns of 36 yards to Tim Brown, 2 yards to Doug Jolley and 36 yards to Alvis Whitted, with Charlie Garner adding a 24-yard scoring run.

LaDainian Tomlinson was the center of the San Diego attack with 28 carries for 187 yards. He also had seven catches for 25 yards.

(That’s how you use a running back).

– The last time the Raiders won in San Diego was Dec. 14, 2002, prevailing 27-7. Gannon was 26 of 41 for 328 yards, with Tyrone Wheatley and Garner scoring on the ground.

Lechler, Janikowski and Tuiasosopo are the only current Raiders who were around for that game.

Regarding the 10 straight losses to San Diego, Cable said, “We’ve talked about it, and it really takes care of itself because of the division opponent, and the rivarly and all those things.”

– Schilens, a seventh-round draft pick out of San Diego State, will play his first NFL game in the stadium where he played his college games.

He had numerous ticket requests, but said he bought only eight because at 74 bucks a shot, “it was too expensive.”

– Kansas City defensive back Maurice Leggett ought to consider sending a latter of thanks to Cable for being named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his 76-yard return of a fake field goal attempt.

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  • http://none MR (Now worried about Brien)

    You can talk about Clem Daniels and Todd Christensen, but do NOT bring up Gruden. Because we’re all about moving forward…

  • S&B – Nation Collective

    Andrews Mom Says:
    December 4th, 2008 at 11:41 am
    Kiff “benched” Bush last year and Mike was not happy about it
    ======================================================
    No, Kiff didn’t bench Bush. Davis benched Bush because he didn’t want to see LaMont Jordan on the Chiefs or Broncos.

  • vegas raider

    S& B: No doubt they could create lots of potential mis-matches and a good coach could take advantage of that. But isn’t that would Cable was trying to do, and Bush acted like a baby, as if we were going to put him as FB strictly to block LB’s. I would like to see both McFadden and Bush used more in the passing game, that’s where they seem at their best and most comfortable.

  • dikembesaysno

    I’m not watching the game tonight. Too stressful.

  • Brien(I♥MyDreads)

    Why didn’t you guys tell me that shaving your pubies would itch this bad?

  • vegas raider

    MR (Now worried about Brien) Says:
    December 4th, 2008 at 11:41 am
    Vegas Raider, why will you be watching to see the development of the young guys, when the team will be trying to lose? How do players develop when a coach is intentionally trying to blow a game? Explain that to me.

    As hard as it may seem, especially after last week’s debacle, I don’t think Tom is TRYING to lose. I just don’t think he is very good at his job.

  • http://none MR (Now worried about Brien)

    Kiffin benched Bush…LOL. Andrew’s Mom firing his pygmy darts, again, hoping to at least slow down the giant…

  • http://none MR (Now worried about Brien)

    Vegas Raider, you’re funny. Acting as if playing for the draft is up to Tom…

  • RaiderRockstar

    In fact, I have to challenge Cable’s definition of creativity. To me creativity is having Bush as a FB on 1 and 10 and run a short screen to the fullback. Going fullhouse backfield and throwing. Creativity is not running fake field goals and going for it on 4th & 3.

    ***

    S&B: I agree, one thing you’ll notice when trying trick plays… look who is doing them? when you saw the pass to curry & pitch to DMC – worked great. Tried the fake punt and run with Alston (a former RB in high school) – worked great.

    then you try a fake FG with Seabass as the runner? from 17 yards out? and then you design a passing play for Russell to make on 4th down? Russ hasn’t shown the ability to convert 3rd downs, why try on 4th down?

    how about some trick plays with playmakers? when it isn’t 4th down and you can have an easy FG …

  • dikembesaysno

    I agree Vegas, I just don’t think Cable knows how to make in game adjustments. It appears he just sticks with the original game plan regardless of the circumstances. It’s painful to watch. He has no concept of clock management either.

  • vegas raider

    #309: Good points, don’t forget Bush was HS QB and got a huge first down in the Denver game on a pass (albeit a great catch from Miller helped)

  • http://contracostatimes BHP 1# FAN

    Wheres the king at need my daily dose of BHP

  • http://none MR (Now worried about Brien)

    Dikembe, Vegas, even though you guys are in denial, you do have a point. With Cable, Al doesn’t need to tell him that they’re playing for the draft. His play calling is so bad it’s as if he’s trying to lose anyway. So…why fix what aint broke. But I can tell you right now, let the Raiders get a two score lead tonight and Cable will get a call from upstairs, and some interesting adjustments will be made in the lineup.

  • Andrews Mom

    Its hard to speculate on the draft untill we find out who the coach will be and if he wil retain the ZBS.

  • dikembesaysno

    MR, what’s am I in denial about…explain yourself foo!

  • S&B – Nation Collective

    RaiderRockstar,

    I think Cable got frustrated against K.C. I think he had in his mind that it was going to be touchdown or bust. He lost his cool if you ask me.

    Going for it on successive 4th downs defies logic. I may give him a pass on the first attempt (but 4th & 10…) but YOU CAN’T go for it a second time after failing the first time.

    Also, I would like to see the Raiders get Russell early confidence by focusing on short throws, screens short crossing routes and comebacks. Then gradually open things up, while keeping focus on the run

  • http://none MR (Now worried about Brien)

    Al doesn’t care who the coach will be (It will probably be Barney Rubble, by default), the draft is all he’s thinking about, now.

  • BlackHoleBishop

    BHP 1# FAN Says:
    December 4th, 2008 at 11:53 am
    Wheres the king at need my daily dose of BHP

    If you bring that peace of K-WRAP here, I will just chase his pompous a$$ right off again!

  • http://none MR (Now worried about Brien)

    Dikembe, you’re in denial of the Raiders trying to lose this game tonight. Playing dumb, now?

  • dikembesaysno

    S&B,

    You’re right he panicked. I think he saw the way the offense was playing and decided he would try to extend drives by any means possible. Including sending the fat a$$ kicker on a 17 yd run.

  • http://none MR (Now worried about Brien)

    I’m contacting various jails around the bay area, btw, to see if any of them have Brien. He’s on a milk carton, guys. I’m worried.

  • vegas raider

    What if the Raiders win MR? I know it is far-fetched, and I am not even touching them +9.5 points, but will you come in here tomorrow and apologize to me, Dikembe and a few others?

  • Voldemort

    We get to get our a$$es kicked in 3D today. I live in Reno and dont have NFL network, so I guess I’ll have to listen to the beatdown on the radio. Anybody know what station?

  • CRANK SMOKER

    dmac has great hands. I catches those bullets thrown by jamac

  • DEATHbyTATUM

    Does anyone know if this will be on local TV as well as NFL net?

  • http://none MR (Now worried about Brien)

    Does anyone know Brien’s last name? I’m going to call Santa Rita, first.

  • vegas raider

    MR. you have to change your moniker to get Brien back. It’s simple, and we all how easily you switch monikers

  • CRANK SMOKER

    he*

  • dikembesaysno

    MR,

    I don’t think I voiced my opinion on the subject of them throwing the game. But, either way, the chance of them losing tonight, whether it be them throwing the game or just plain sucking it up, is quite likely. You can spin it any way you want, doesn’t bother me.

  • http://none MR (Now worried about Brien)

    Yes, Vegas, I will come in and apologize to you. I’ll also let you guys know if I see pigs flying outside of my house. I’m sorry you’re in such denial about this, Vegas. How long have you been a Raider fan? Don’t you know what your team does when it’s out of playoff contention? It’s likely they threw last week’s game, too. It was only you fans talking playoffs at ’8-8. Even Al’s not that crazy.

  • CRANK SMOKER

    you can watch the game on TVU player tonight http://www.tvunetworks.com/

  • http://none MR (Now worried about Brien)

    Dikembe, anyone who doesn’t know the Raiders are TRYING TO LOSE tonight is either in denial, stupid, or full of crap. You and Vegas can make up your minds as to which one you guys are.

  • RaiderRockstar

    Also, I would like to see the Raiders get Russell early confidence by focusing on short throws, screens short crossing routes and comebacks. Then gradually open things up, while keeping focus on the run

    ***

    where do the Chargers rank against the run? Seems like we’re never able to run the ball on them, except Dominic Rhodes surpassed 100 yards last season in a meaningless game. They don’t have Merriman this time around and they aren’t in control of the division. No confidence. No matter what happens, this game will be a lot different than last time we faced them in Oakland. Last time Kiffin & Knapp split the play calling duties and Ryan’s defense choked in the 4th. I don’t know that Russell throws for another 270 yards. Maybe more like 170? that’s closer to his average and this time Fargas & McFadden are healthy.

  • S&B – Nation Collective

    the Raiders aren’t throwing any games. They are playing poorly because they have been coached poorly. The Raider coaches lost games against Buffalo, San Diego, Miami and Kansas City. Hell, if the Raiders could have taken just ONE of those, they are still in the playoff hunt.

    Davis needs to think very carefully on his new head coach

  • http://www.car.org KoolKell

    The Raiders are the most creative team in the league at harming themselves. You can never count them out, in that regard.

    Question
    _________

    Why do the Raiders lead the league in penalties every year?

  • Hubbard Run Me Throw

    It will be simulcasted on KGO Channel 7.

  • http://cctimes raiderhomey

    Yo S&B nation, Bush is not playing because Al is pi$$ed off at his refusal to commit to the team. Never forget how much “Big AL” values loyalty to the “Rah-Duhs”. He will not play do to injury risk also. Look for him to be dealt on draft day, period, end of story.

  • Charley Charger

    Youz guyz iz goin doun tanite. Thiz hear iza gonna be da bezt gaim ov Filup Rivahz careeer!

  • http://www.car.org KoolKell

    S&B

    Poor Coaching?????? for the last 25 years?. With a new Coach every 2 years????

    Me thinks it’s more than coaching

    Why do the Raiders lead the league in penalties every year?

  • http://cctimes raiderhomey

    Hey charlie charge-puke, how bout those chargers eh, best four and eight superbowl favorite I ever saw, yuk,yuk.

  • S&B – Nation Collective

    raiderhomey Says:
    December 4th, 2008 at 12:07 pm
    Yo S&B nation, Bush is not playing because Al is pi$$ed off at his refusal to commit to the team. Never forget how much “Big AL” values loyalty to the “Rah-Duhs”. He will not play do to injury risk also. Look for him to be dealt on draft day, period, end of story
    ===================================================
    So be it. I really don’t care much anymore. I just want wins. Hopefully we get at least a 4th round pick for the guy and DON’T trade him within the division

  • dikembesaysno

    MR,

    But you’re going to watch the game anyway after talking all this sh!t.

  • RaiderRockstar

    where do the Chargers rank against the run? Seems like we’re never able to run the ball on them, except Dominic Rhodes surpassed 100 yards last season in a meaningless game. They don’t have Merriman this time around and they aren’t in control of the division. No confidence. No matter what happens, this game will be a lot different than last time we faced them in Oakland. Last time Kiffin & Knapp split the play calling duties and Ryan’s defense choked in the 4th. I don’t know that Russell throws for another 270 yards. Maybe more like 170? that’s closer to his average and this time Fargas & McFadden are healthy.

  • DEATHbyTATUM

    IS THE GAME BEING BROADCAST ON LOCAL NETWORKS TOO?!

  • dikembesaysno

    NOPE

  • http://www.insidebayarea.com/ MR ( Now Worried About Brien)

    Willie, don’t get offended by my asking about Brien. This is strictly about his Al worshiping. Every night me and you will do our usual thing. I’m in Elmhurst now, Willie Dynomite.

  • http://cctimes raiderhomey

    C’mon Kell, the Raiders have ALWAYS been at or near the top in penalties. Al does not give a $hit about penalties, and we all know the microscope which the team plays under every Sunday. Against Denver, the calls went their way yet we plyed well enough to overcome the officials. Too bad that’s not the case as often as it used to be in the “godd ol daze”.

  • S&B – Nation Collective

    KoolKell,

    Yeah, Al Davis alone is responsible for all of this. His refusal to stick with a head coach for the last 20 years has put the Raiders where they are right now.

    As to why the Raiders lead the league in penalties….I think the Raiders refusal to stick with a coaching staff destroys any continuity in coaching and player expectations. This leads to a lack of discipline and focus on the players part. Also, the Raiders heavy reliance on free agents means a lot of players moving through the system. How many players on this team has been with the Raiders longer than 3 or 4 years?

  • Charley Charger

    Deyz gude anuff ta beatz youz guyz raderhomo.

  • dikembesaysno

    Charley or Charlie?

    No name calling when your a guest.