Are four legs better than six?

We take a momentary break from Donovan McNabb talk to consider if the Raiders are better off having committed their running game to two backs rather than three.

A year ago, running back position was considered the deepest position on the team.

Darren McFadden, having recovered from the turf toes which derailed his rookie season, was being counted on as an explosive lead back. In theory, the Raiders would run the ball so often that Bush, having gained 177 yards in the 2008 season finale against Tampa Bay, and Justin Fargas, their leading rusher since 2003, would also get their share of carries.

Al Davis was intrigued enough by how the New York Giants got big numbers out of Brandon Jacobs (1,089 yards), Derrick Ward (1,025) and Ahmad Bradshaw (355) that offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride got a serious look at the head coaching job that went to Tom Cable, and no doubt was quizzed extensively on how he did it. The Giants led the NFL with 2,518 yards and averaged 5.0 yards per carry.

Instead, the Raiders running game fell from 10th in the NFL 124.2 yards per game) to 21st (106.3), a steady drop from their sixth-place finish (130.4) in 2007.

What happened?

McFadden got hurt again. This time he needed arthroscopic knee surgery which took four games away in the middle of the season. Two years into his career, McFadden’s health, as well as his ability to break tackles, are an open question. Bush led the Raiders in rushing with 589 yards and had the two best individual rushing games of the season (119 against Kansas City, 133 against Denver) but has privately coaches wish he was in better condition.

Fargas missed four games, two at the beginning of the season with a hamstring problem and the last two with a knee injury, and was released.

Cable indicated at the NFL owner’s meetings was the Raiders would be better off with two runners sharing the load rather than three, and that McFadden and Bush would compete for the starting job.

As far as 2009 was concerned, the two-are-better-than-three rationale didn’t wash in terms of stats.

In the eight games when all three running backs were active, Oakland rushed for 953 yards on 208 carries, a 4.6 average, and went 3-5.

In the eight games when either McFadden and Bush or Fargas and Bush were active, with the Raiders gained 747 yards on 202 carries, a 3.6 average, and were 2-6.

Gilbride is still in New York, while the Raiders new offensive coordinator is Hue Jackson, the quarterbacks coach in Baltimore last year when the Ravens had the league’s top two back system with Ray Rice (1,339 yards, seven touchdowns) and Willis McGahee (544 yards, 12 touchdowns).

In the end, the Raiders’ problems probably had more to do with training camp focus than the number of backs they used.

Cable was so intent on upgrading the Raiders passing game during training camp (unsuccessfully, until JaMarcus Russell was benched) Oakland lost its way on the ground.

They’ll need to rebound in that area to realize aspirations of .500 and beyond _ whether McNabb is the quarterback or not.


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer

  • http://none The Real MaddenRaider

    You guys want to talk draft?

    This is from a year ago, but it’s about the draft.


    Posted by: danzinski

    It’s possible Al Davis doesn’t take the whole scouting and working out and drafting process as seriously as he should. This would certainly explain why, despite mountains of data indicating against such a move, his Oakland Raiders selected Maryland wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey with the #7 overall pick, a move that drew immediate scorn, derision and ridicule from the Mel Kipers, Todd McShays and Mike Mayocks of the world…oh, and pretty much everyone else who knows, or thinks they know, anything about the players available in this year’s draft. Heyward-Bey, to put it mildly, was considered a shaky prospect: great speed, but maybe not the best hands in the world. The experts saw him going in the latter part of the first round, to a team without a lot of pressing needs, who were willing to take a chance on a speedster they might be able to develop. The Raiders, having plenty of pressing needs, were believed to favor one of the more complete-package receivers like Michael Crabtree, or perhaps a defensive player like Brian Orakpo.

    But no, Al Davis, bucking not only conventional wisdom but plain-old wisdom, spent his precious #7 pick on Heyward-Bey. I wonder what the meeting was like on that one?


    STOOGE: “So, Mr. Davis, we’ve got all the data from the combine here and all our scouting reports…”

    AL: “That’s fine. Give them here.” (takes papers) “What’s that you’re holding back?”

    “STOOGE: Holding back?”

    AL: “I can see you trying to hide it behind your back. What is it?”

    STOOGE: “Oh this. It’s nothing, it’s just some…”

    AL: “Let me see it.”

    STOOGE: “You wouldn’t be interested in this sir…”

    AL: “Let me see the god damn thing before I run you out on the same rail I put that Kiffin or whatever his name was on.”

    STOOGE: “All right sir. Here you go.” (surrenders paper)

    AL: “Oh, I see. Trying to keep the 4o times from me, eh? Well, you can’t fool old Al. My flying monkey already brought me the 4o times last week. You think I trust you devious bastards?”

    STOOGE: “I’m sorry sir…”

    AL: “Don’t sorry me you sniveling weasel. Nothing but a bunch of pathetic panty-waists, the whole lot of you. I wouldn’t trade a thousand of you pansies for one John Madden, you know that?” (reading paper) “Well, I see here this Darrius Heyward-Bey kid is pretty fast.”

    STOOGE: “Yes sir, but he had some problems…”

    AL: “Problems? Like what?”

    STOOGE: “Well sir, he isn’t exactly that good at catching the ball…”

    AL: “Well, we won’t worry about that. That’s what coaches are for. Anyway, I have a great track-record with receivers. If there’s anything I know, it’s receivers. I want the Heyward-Bey kid…”

    STOOGE: “But sir.”

    AL: “You don’t want me to push the button do you? Do you?”

    STOOGE: “No sir.”

    AL: “No. Now get out of here. And bring me the Heyward-Bey kid. And then tell the nurse to come in here. I need my diaper changed again…”

    Davis’s fixation on speedy players remains one of the great running gags in sports, along with Craig Sager’s clothes sense and Sean Avery’s misogyny. The only ones not laughing are Raiders fans, who have had to watch their once-proud franchise sink slowly into the La Brea tarpit of laughingstockdom.

    But the Heyward-Bey selection was only the beginning of the agony for Raider fans on Saturday: in the second round, Emperor Al outdid himself by selecting safety Michael Mitchell out of Ohio University, a player projected by most draft experts as a late second-day pick. Whatever hair was left in Raider Nation’s heads after the Heyward-Bey mess was immediately torn out and possibly swallowed along with a large quantity of alcohol and/or pills. The draft wonks didn’t even bother ripping Davis for that pick, they simply rolled their eyes, pointed their fingers at their heads and made the “cuckoo” sign. Raider players got on the phone with their agents and started cooking up schemes to get themselves shipped out of town. The leaders of the city of Oakland held a special meeting after which it was decided they should all pack up their stuff and move to L.A., since they can’t force Al to do it.

    Even Mike Ditka thinks Al Davis is clueless when it comes to the draft.


  • SinceFrankYouellField

    Boy, did I hit a wrong button!

    That was to say,
    But if we don’t get McNab and JR isn’t putting out incredible effort…..I would be happy to watch the 2nd string over-achievers play.

  • http://blstb.msn.com/i/55/90A2853B6CFBCC2AFC987BB18B832.jpg vegas raider

    Effort is only mildly important for the QB position.

  • M Lonetree

    Please no more cast-off offensive linemen (pass on Flo).
    Please no oft-injured lost a step and a half Chunky soup QB.
    Please keep Cable away from the offense.

  • Senior Beeecham

    E, my trusty shrimp cocktail server, the last thing old Krappy needs is a beatdown.

    The old fool needs understanding and compassion!

    Seriously, how’d you feel if you were almost 80 years old, crapped your pants 9 times a day, barely made rent on tiny 1 Bd apt., couldn’t move a town home in over 5 months and pretended to own a Chalet in Switzerland?!

    You’d probably want to rant and rave like a deranged lunatic about politics on a football blog day in and day out also!

    Uh, right!?

  • RaiderRockstar

    5pm in Podunk. later gents!

    Happy Easter!

  • http://www.car.org KoolKell

    Dumb Beeych

    Why don’t you get a job, young man?

  • Raider E

    Now thats what i’m talking about Beeech lmfao :)

  • M Lonetree


    Effortlessness or lack of effort (take your pick) hangs as mighty greatness on the shoulders of our anointed King Elexis I.

  • DKnight007

    Yep! Way to go moron Al and his cronies to piss off the fan base and make them not want to buy season tickets and not even buy single game tickets!

    Great job by old man Al and his underling cronies like Herrera! LOL


    What a terrible day that was last year!

  • Senior Beeecham

    Krappy, that’s a great idea!

    Maybe I can go into your line of work – sitting around the apartment all day blogging, pounding Hot Pockets and occasionally getting ragged on by all the homies down at the barbershop.

    Tell me quick, Krap Krap – where do I go to apply?

  • http://www.car.org KoolKell


  • Senior Beeecham

    You’re right, Krappy – I forgot to mention taking 3 hours naps every day.

    Thanks for reminding me, bro.

  • http://www.car.org KoolKell

    Dumb Beeych

    You need some new material.

  • http://www.car.org KoolKell

    Dumb Beeych

    So you’re deliverin my come-uppins ,eh?

  • Scottish Raider

    Scottish Mock No 5.

    1st: Trent Williams OT Oklahoma

    I personally would take Jimmy Clausen but I don’t expect the Raiders to take a QB until much later. Cable has reportedly had discussions with Al about the best OT and been lobbying hard for Williams.

    2nd: Bruce Campbell OT Maryland

    Surprise, surprise. Campbell is still on the Board at No39. And why not. Williams will play RT and Campbell can cover Henderson. Taking two OTs may seem daft but it is smart percentage drafting.

    3rd: Jarrett Brown QB West Virginia.

    Brown isn’t ready to start in the NFL but he has all the physical tools and seems to have the right attitude. A great project for Hue and sensible insurance – given we have no 2011 1st sound pick.

    3rd (If we trade Morrison): J.D. Walton C Baylor

    Walton is the second best Center in the draft. I know Cable rates Satele but the evidence is that neither Satele or Morris can get the job done. Walton is bigger and a proven leader.

    4th: Marshall Newhouse G TCU

    Cooper Carlisle is a great technician and a real pro but he is aging fast and gettin overpowered. Newhouse is perfect as Carlisle’s deputy and pupil. 319 lbs and remarkably quick – he’s ideal as a ZBS power Guard.

    5th Round: Sean Lee ILB Penn State

    Lee is a 2nd round talent but there are real questions about his medical history and dodgy knees. However, in the 5th he is too good an option to pass up.

    5th Round: Jay Ross D East Carolina

    313 lbs of roadblock. Not flash. Doesn’t move much but Ross seals lanes and will anchor the Dline. Better value than many of the higher rated DTs.

    7th Round: Jamar Wall CB Texas Tech

    Under-rated and under most radars. Wall isn’t a flash athlete but he is a very competitive player. Will add depth and potential behind Nnamdi, CJ and Routt.

    7th Round: Michael Smith RB Arkansas

    Too small, too injured but this kid is lightning. We need a 3rd RB and a KR/PR. Get Smith fit and he has the gas to terrify. A steal.

    If Campbell is gone at 39, take Geno Atkins (DT) and take Andrew Tyshovnytsky OT Fordham or Chris Marinelli OT Stanford in the 5th.

  • RaiderNsuede

    Flozell Adams anyone?

  • Scottish Raider

    Flozell is too slow, too old and there are better options in the draft.

  • http://www.car.org KoolKell

    Flozell Adams…..sad. Al Davis has got his fans grasping at every big-name to come down the pike, as he does.

  • Senior Beeecham

    Krappy, I’m sorry I don’t speak hillbilly Oklahomian.

    Can you translate “come-uppins” into English. Thanks.

    BTW – What’re your big plans for the weekend? Taking the old lady out for a matinee and a couple’s enema?

    I’ve gotta entertain these 19 year old Norwegian triplets all weekend and I only have 2 hot tubs. What’s a brother to do?

  • NorthernD

    Scottish Raider Says:
    April 2nd, 2010 at 3:21 pm
    Scottish Mock No 5.

    1st: Trent Williams OT Oklahoma

    I personally would take Jimmy Clausen but I don’t expect the Raiders to take a QB until much later. Cable has reportedly had discussions with Al about the best OT and been lobbying hard for Williams.

    2nd: Bruce Campbell OT Maryland

    Surprise, surprise. Campbell is still on the Board at No39. And why not. Williams will play RT and Campbell can cover Henderson. Taking two OTs may seem daft but it is smart percentage drafting.
    Interesting thoughts Scottish, but Williams and Campbell will both be gone by the Raider’s second pick.
    Davis has drafted back to back O-linemen before. I think it was John Clay and Bruce Wilkerson years ago.
    Clay was a bust, but Wilkerson had an ok career.

  • http://CableBumaye 909RaiderLifer

    Maybe PETA won’t have to be intervene after all. For it seems for now at least, that BSPN has stopped beating that rented mule named, “Raiders most likely to trade for McNabb.”

    They have gone 30mins. into Sportscenter without a mention of a trade. That, hasn’t happened since all this crap hit the fan last week….

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3ng4yHw2xk&feature=PlayList&p=E565EF0DE2F587FA&playnext= Raider75

    Bring in Flozell for 1 mil 1 year and still draft OTs.

    Bodies for training camp and preseason are never a bad thing.

    Would love to see the Raiders draft Clausen or McCoy, but O-line is too great a need.

  • http://www.car.org KoolKell

    Al Davis makes a flashy acquisition every year, to no avail.

    Band-aid are insufficient for shot-gun blast wounds.

  • NorthernD

    Senior Beeecham Says:
    April 2nd, 2010 at 3:28 pm
    Krappy, I’m sorry I don’t speak hillbilly Oklahomian.

    Can you translate “come-uppins” into English. Thanks.
    Come-uppance. It actually is an English expression which loosely means to get what’s coming to you.

  • NorthernD

    Was Flozell released?

  • Scottish Raider

    NorthernD, I think the Raiders should play a game of bluff with Campbell. It is expect that Al won’t be able to resist him at No8 – but if we pass, other teams might shy away and leave him on the Board at 39. Trent Williams is the much safer option – just worth a gamble that Campbell falls another 31 places.

  • fat kidd

    The Dallas Cowboys started the purge of some underachieving veterans by cutting starting left tackle Flozell Adams and free safety Ken Hamlin on Friday.


  • severeraiderz

    This is the “show me” season for DHB, Bush, and McFadden. If Russell truly showed up out of shape the he has shown the Raiders enough.

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