The Oakland Raiders have two Darren McFaddens. The question is, which one will show up this season?
The first is perhaps the fastest and most dynamic breakaway running back in the NFL, the No. 20 in silver and black who already had rushed for 614 yards by his seventh game in 2011, with a 5.4-yards-per-carry average.
He was the Raiders’ best weapon, a lighting-quick and powerful back who could pick up a first down or dominate a game, as he did while rushing for 150 yards or more in two of his first three games of last season.
After rushing for 1,157 yards in 2010, McFadden – the team’s first-round pick (fourth overall) in the 2008 NFL draft – seemed on his way to claiming elite status in the league.
But McFadden was injured in that seventh game of last season and didn’t return, suffering a Lisfranc foot sprain. It was the latest in a series of injuries that have kept McFadden on the sidelines, the other half of the McFadden equation.
A Lisfranc injury can be serious, so what are the chances McFadden will return at full force in 2012, ready to pick up where he left off in 2011?
McFadden believes he’ll be fine.
After a recent minicamp practice, he says he feels completely healed and ready to go when training camp opens later this month.
“Coming back from an injury like that, a lot of it plays on your mind,” McFadden told reporters. “You wonder if you can do the things that you did at first, but just being out here and running around I see that I can do those things full speed. So I don’t think it’ll be a problem for me.”
Added McFadden: “I’m ready to get out there and get going and pick up where I left off last year.”
New head coach Dennis Allen believes McFadden is one of the key pieces to the team’s success in 2012. With Michael Bush gone, too, right now the Raiders don’t have a dependable running back to step in if McFadden suffers another injury – one of the reasons reports have indicated the Raiders are interested in signing free agent veteran running back Cedric Benson.
But Allen likes what he sees of McFadden so far.
“He looks extremely good to me, he looks fast, looks expolosive and he knows what to do and how to do it,” Allen told the media last month. “As we all know, the key is to keep this guy healthy, for him to have a good year.”
This season’s Raiders offense may be more balanced, a West Coast system with Carson Palmer at QB and some fast, field-stretching wideouts. But the running game and McFadden are important. Without McFadden, the Raiders are a much different, less dangerous offense.
A recent story by the National Football Authority noted that often, a player doesn’t come back from a Lisfranc injury to the same level of play. It noted Lions running back Kevin Jones, for example, was never the same after a Lisfranc sprain in 2006. Defensive end Dwight Freeney, too, has been slowed considerably by the injury.
After rest and rehab, however, McFadden believes he’ll come back strong in 2012.
“Just being out there (minicamp) and running around, I see that I can do those things full speed,” says McFadden. “So I don’t think it’ll be a problem for me.”