After one game, the Raiders lead the AFC in rushing.
Oakland ran the ball 33 times against the Colts in a 21-17 loss, for 171 yards and a touchdown, averaging 5.2 yards per carry.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, however, standout running back Darren McFadden wasn’t much of a factor, carrying 17 times for 48 yard and a 2.8-yard average that was even worse than his 3.3-yard average in 2012. The Raiders’ only success on the ground came because of quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who rushed for 112 yards on 13 carries.
In fact, Pryor leads the AFC in rushing.
But as the Raiders get ready for their 2013 home opener this Sunday against the Jaguars, head coach Dennis Allen isn’t worried about McFadden.
He believes it’s just a matter of time before McFadden busts loose. And it may just happen against Jacksonville, which allowed 120 yards rushing to the Chiefs in a 28-2 Week 1 loss.
“It’s one football game,” Allen told Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle. “I’m still pleased with where Darren is, and I still think he’s going to have a good year.”
Allen also noted that the Raiders had a couple of opportunities to pop some running plays with McFadden that didn’t materialize because “we didn’t execute exactly how we needed to.”
The other factor, too, was the makeshift offensive line. Because of a midweek injury to Menelik Watson, who was expected to start the opener against the Colts, Khalif Barnes had to be shifted from right tackle to the left side, and just-acquired Tony Pashos moved into the right-tackle spot.
Though McFadden didn’t do much on the ground, Allen said the Raiders were able to run the ball against the Colts – the yardage just came in the less-conventional mode of Pryor’s scrambles and designed runs.
“Well, we ran for 171 yards,” Allen told reporters Monday. “I’m not concerned with who gets the yards. We were able to run and run effectively. Darren’s going to get his touches. Darren’s going to get his yards.”
In last season’s 26-23 Raiders victory over Jacksonville, the Raiders fell behind early and played catch-up. In that game, McFadden carried 19 times for just 53 yards. But he has had success against the Jags in the past. In a 38-31 loss to Jacksonville in 2010, McFadden carried 16 times for 123 yards – including a 51-yard TD run – and also caught a 67-yard TD pass.
Not everyone agrees with Allen, however, that McFadden will be fine. Christopher Harris, an NFL analyst for ESPN.com, believes the combination of the Raiders’ makeshift offensive line and his own inability to show the burst he used to regularly display could produce a long and disappointing season for him.
“My opinion is that McFadden has been and continues to be saddled with one of the NFL’s poorest offensive lines,” Harris wrote recently. He noted that a change in blocking scheme, returning to a power scheme rather than a zone scheme, won’t matter if “McFadden is constantly getting met in the backfield.”
Also, says Harris, McFadden averaged just 1.3 yards per carry in 2012 before contact, which ranked 17th among the 22 backs who had at least half their team’s carries, a stat he describes as “miserable.” With his speed, writes Harris, McFadden should be producing a better number than that.
Against Jacksonville, McFadden will get a chance to prove doubters wrong. If he has another mediocre performance, there could be cause for worry.