On the Raiders' first play from scrimmage Sunday, running back Darren McFadden took a handoff up the middle and burst for 14 yards.
Two plays later, he ran for six more. On the Raiders’ second possession, McFadden lined up in the wildcat to give the Redskins’ defense something extra to think about, and handed off to Jacoby Ford on an end-around.
But by the second quarter, McFadden was out of the game with a hamstring injury. His totals for the day were 29 yards on just five carries (5.8 yards per rush). At the time of his departure, Oakland had a 14-0 lead over Washington at O.co Coliseum. But as the day wore on, the Raiders wore out. Without McFadden, fullback Marcel Reece (knee) and quarterback Terrelle Pryor (held out because of a concussion), the Raiders offense was without three of its best playmakers, and the Redskins rallied for a 24-14 victory.
The Raiders – now 1-3 – couldn’t maintain any offensive rhythm, as backup quarterback Matt Flynn suffered through an atrocious day, throwing an interception for a Washington TD, losing a fumble and getting sacked seven times.
Now, as they begin preparations for hosting the Chargers Sunday, the Raiders are hoping Pryor can return, but the status of McFadden is also in doubt.
And for the Raiders and their fans, this is a long-running and frustrating story. With McFadden, the Raiders’ running game can be one of the NFL’s best. Without him, Oakland is stymied.
Since he was drafted in 2008, McFadden had missed 23 of 80 games entering this season, and now that number may be going up.
As longtime Bay Area columnist Monte Poole noted, the Raiders keep depending on McFadden and keep getting let down.
“Expect, then, for McFadden’s NFL career to follow the same demoralizing script: terrific running back, cannot avoid the kind of injuries that sabotage his best intentions,” wrote Poole.
After the loss, Allen said what everyone knows: the Raiders must have McFadden on the field to be successful.
“From a run-game standpoint, he’s kind of got the ability to hit the home-run ball,” Allen told Poole. “Our other runners are a little bit more physical-type runners, whereas Darren’s got a little bit more burst to break off the long run.”
Rashad Jennings did his best to pick up the slack Sunday, carrying 15 times for 45 yards and catching eight passes for 71, but his longest run was just 6 yards. McFadden, he’s not.
McFadden tried to come back into the game, but quickly was out again before halftime. In the second half, he was on the sidelines, watching. So, it’s possible the injury isn’t serious. But hamstring injuries tend to linger, especially with a back such as McFadden, whose speed and explosiveness mark his game (when healthy).
Up until Sunday, McFadden was playing well in this final year of his contract. He has 53 carries for 215 yards (4.1 average) and four carries for more than 20 yards.
Now, writes Poole, fans can expect the Raiders offense to devolve into a familiar will-McFadden-play-this-week mode they’ve experienced for several seasons.
“If the days are getting shorter and the leaves are turning brown and the air is starting to cool, McFadden will set up camp in the trainer’s room,” Poole wrote. “It’s tradition, with no reason to expect change.”