Raiders running back Darren McFadden needs a big season in 2013. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Raiders running back Darren McFadden had a dreadful 2012 season, but says he’s primed for a big year in 2013.
“You haven’t seen the best of me at all,” said McFadden recently.
There certainly are reasons to believe McFadden has much better days ahead.
He’s still only 25 years old, he’s healthy again and he’s the team’s best weapon in an offense that will be running a power-running attack again under a new scheme from offensive coordinator Greg Olson and behind a line coached up by new coach Tony Sparano.
“I feel like everybody’s up to speed,” McFadden told Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group. “I feel like I’m up to speed with everybody. I know the blocks that they’re going to make and where the holes should be.”
But, there’s another reason to believe McFadden will again be the back he was in 2010 and 2011 when he averaged 5.2 and 5.4 yards per carry. This is the final year of the six-year contract he signed in 2008 when he was the fourth overall pick in the draft.
Sports Illustrated’s Chris Burke recently tabbed McFadden as one of three key “Contract Year” players to watch in 2013. If they want big paydays in the future, they’re going to have to produce in a big way in 2013.
For McFadden, that will mean remaining healthy and productive. With McFadden, the Raiders offense is dangerous. McFadden, as he showed in 2010 and the first half of 2011, is a game breaker. Over those 1½ seasons, he rushed for almost 1,800 yards and 11 touchdowns and also caught 66 passes.
“He may be down to his last shot in Oakland,” wrote Burke. “McFadden is entering the final year of the six-year, $60 million contract he signed after being drafted, and the Raiders would prefer to find out if he’s capable of performing as an elite back before handing him more money.”
Burke notes that this season, “there should be nothing between McFadden and career numbers across the board.” The offensive line should perform better as a unit under Sparano, and the emphasis on drafting core line talent – Jared Veldheer, Stefan Wisniewski, Menelik Watson – should start to pay off.
“The ‘contract year’ has a magical way of healing all wounds, of helping players elevate their performances,” wrote Burke.
During recent team workouts, McFadden looked ready. As Corkran tweeted after watching one session: “Has to be encouraging for coach Dennis Allen to see RB Darren McFadden looking so energized, explosive.”
Now, says Burke, 2013 is McFadden’s make-or-break year.
“At some point … potential becomes wasted,” he wrote. “McFadden is rapidly approaching that cutoff point. Can he finally be the back everyone expects?”