Running back Darren McFadden isn’t one to blow his top when things aren’t working well, just as he isn’t going to sing his praises when things are rolling his way.
So it is that he plods along, working hard, remaining patient and sounding confident that his season-long funk running the ball is about to end at any time.
“I just have to stay focused at the task at hand, keep pushing,” McFadden said. “It’s one of those things where you can’t get down on yourself, can’t get down on the offense. Just keep playing ball and eventually it’s going to happen.”
But when? McFadden rushed 19 times for 53 yards (2.8-yard average) against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. Through six games, he has amassed only 324 yards on 103 carries (3.1).
Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp pleaded for patience a few weeks back. Coach Dennis Allen said he is committed to the run game and McFadden as the lead back.
“I’m disappointed that it’s not doing better,” Allen said. “Again, we’re going to continue to work, continue to see what we can do better, both as a coaching staff and how can we execute better to give our guys a chance to be successful. I don’t think there’s any doubt that we want, and need, to run the ball better than we have.”
To that end, McFadden says he watched the video of his runs each games, seeing if there are holes he is missing, blocks he isn’t reading properly, anything.
“You have to go back and look at it every time,” McFadden said. “You want to look at every run, so you can know what you did wrong or if you should have stayed with the hole or made an earlier cut. So, it’s one of those things you have to go back and re-evaluate yourself.”
McFadden rushed 46 times for 123 yards (2.7) in games against the Falcons and Jaguars, teams that allowed an average of 5.4 and 4.7, respectively, when the Raiders played them.
Allen said McFadden looks like the same player as the one that ripped through the league for most of the nine-plus games he played last season.
“Yeah, he does,” Allen said. “He’s still an explosive player. We’ve got to do a better job of creating some room for him to run. We’ve incorporated a few more of those gap scheme-type plays.”
Beyond that, Allen is like Knapp and McFadden in the belief that the short runs that have been the norm the first six games are about to turn into longer ones.
“You can say this on every play, but we’re one block here or one block there away from a big run,” Allen said. “Really, you go back and look at the Pittsburgh game and that was his best rushing output of the game. He had an explosive run. That’s how you get those big games.
“You have one or two explosive runs in a game and all of a sudden you look up and here’s a guy with a hundred-and-something yards rushing. So that’s what we’ve got to continue to do. We’ve got to continue to work in the running game and I feel that if we continue to hand the ball off to him, those big runs are going to come.”
— Six players suffered injuries against the Jaguars. The good news for the Raiders is, none is expected to miss any playing time, Allen said.
The six are: wide receiver Rod Streater (knee), defensive lineman Dave Tollefson (shoulder), linebacker Miles Burris (elbow), defensive end Desmond Bryant (elbow), linebacker Keenan Clayton (shoulder) and running back Mike Goodson (hip).
“Again, I don’t expect those to be anything that causes us to miss any time,” Allen said, “but (I’ll) have a better feel for that on Wednesday.”
The Raiders don’t practice again until Wednesday.
— Allen said he expects to get back tight end Richard Gordon (hamstring) this week. The same can’t be said of right offensive tackle Khalif Barnes (groin) and cornerback Shawntae Spencer (foot). Allen said it’s “doubtful” that either of them will be back this week.
— Linebacker Aaron Curry practiced Wednesday, Thursday and Friday last week in his return from the physically unable to perform list. It remains to be seen whether he can progress enough to be activated for the remainder of this season.
The Raiders are in the midst of a 21-day window for when they can evaluate Curry’s return from sore knees. They can activate him to the 53-man roster at any point. They have to activate him, waive him or place Curry on the injured-reserve list by the end of the three-week window.
“Still in the evaluation process,” Allen said. “We still got two more weeks to make a decision on him. At whatever point it is that we feel like he’s ready to go and can withstand the rigors of the National Football League game, then we’ll have him active and ready to roll.”
When asked the odds of that decision coming before the 21-day window expires, Allen said: “I don’t know. We’ll see how he works this week and what he looks like in practice. We’ll go from there.”
Curry has not spoken with the media since the Raiders shut him down during the offseason.
— Defensive back Michael Huff said he hasn’t been told whether he will return to free safety or remain at cornerback once Ron Bartell or Shawntae Spencer returns from injury.
“I just want to be on the field making plays,” Huff said. “I just want to be out there. It doesn’t matter. Whatever’s best for our defense, that’s what I’ll play.”
Former Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha was in the Bay Area over the weekend. He and Huff spent time together and the conversation soon turned to Huff’s play at cornerback the past four games.
“He told me he was impressed,” Huff said.
Huff said, in jest, that his play is more impressive because he doesn’t get to play man-to-man defense as often as Asomugha did during his eight years with the Raiders.
“We don’t have that defense anymore,” Huff said. “We don’t just press and play man every snap, so his takes don’t really apply right now. We allowed him to play man. He didn’t have to think, he didn’t have to do anything. He’ll probably get mad when he sees this but he knows he’s my guy.”
— Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel announced Brady Quinn as his starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the Raiders. Allen spent last season around Quinn, when both were with the Denver Broncos.
Allen said he isn’t sure what the permanent change from Matt Cassel to Quinn means to the Chiefs, who are 1-5 and coming off a bye week.
“It depends,” Allen said. “That’s their team. I don’t know how they’ll respond to it. But, obviously, I don’t see them changing a whole lot as far as philosophically what they’re going to do on offense, the plays that they’re going to call and how they’re going to execute it.”
Quinn played in the Chiefs last game before the bye. He has completed 24 of 40 passes for 212 yards, with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
Allen said the video of that game is something the Raiders will pay close attention to, for sure.
“We have to go and look at the tape and look at what they’ve done up to this point,” Allen said. “Their last game, Brady Quinn was their quarterback, so we’ll have a feel for what they think they can do with him.”
— Burris said he still feels like a rookie, even though his play suggests otherwise.
For that, he credits fellow linebackers Rolando McClain and Curry to helping expedite his transition from college to the NFL.
“They’ve been awesome,” Burris said. “They’ve been a big part of my continued progress here. Helping me get lined up, helping me learn, helping me on techniques, not just the coaches, they’ve been great teachers in this process as well. A guy like Aaron Curry, too, not just in football, but he’s making sure I know when Bible studies are and he’s making sure I’m doing all right off the field. These guys are awesome.”
Once again, Allen walked away from another game impressed by Burris’ progression into a dependable player.
“Miles continues to get better every week,” Allen said. “Again, I’ve said it before, he’s the type of guy that we’re looking for here. He loves the game of football, plays extremely hard, eliminates the repeat mistakes and I’m pleased with the way that Miles Burris is playing.”