Running back Rashad Jennings (No. 27) has been durable and productive this season for Oakland. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)
Goodbye, Darren McFadden.
This was the season the Raiders’ running back needed to be healthy, productive and step up to become the team’s best offensive weapon. In the final year of his contract, the former first-round pick out of Arkansas hoped to have a big year and cement his future in Oakland.
Instead, McFadden has again been hurt this season, missed playing time and watched as his backup, Rashad Jennings, has played very well.
In Sunday’s victory over the Houston Texans, Jennings not only had an 80-yard touchdown run, but rushed for more than 100 yards for the second time in three games. And, over the past three games, Jennings has rushed for 340 yards and two TDs and averaged 5.96 yards per carry.
McFadden, meanwhile, has given the team no reason to believe he’s worth the millions it would cost to bring him back for 2014 and beyond.
Back in August, it was reported that the Raiders approached McFadden to talk about a contract extension, but that McFadden said he wanted to wait until after the season to discuss the issue. Obviously, if he put up big numbers in 2013, he’d have much better leverage.
And, there seemed reason to believe that McFadden was set up for a rebound season after a very forgettable 2012.
He was healthy again and, in practices, showed the explosiveness and speed that made him – when healthy – one of the NFL’s best running backs. Plus, he was eager to show the Raiders what he could do in a return to a power-running scheme.
“The organization has shown tremendous faith in me, and I’m very grateful for that,” McFadden told a reporter in September. “I feel like it shows real faith in me and in this offense as a whole. They clearly have confidence in my ability and what I can do in a downhill running scheme. I’m so excited to be able to run in this type of offense again. I feel like I owe the Raiders a fantastic season.”
Yet as the 4-6 Raiders try to put together back-to-back wins this Sunday when they play host to the 4-6 Tennessee Titans, it’s Jennings who is now the Raiders’ most effective running back.
Even if McFadden’s hamstring heals enough this week to get him on the field Sunday, Jennings will continue to get the ball, said Raiders head coach Dennis Allen after the win over Houston.
“(Jennings has) been a guy we’ve called on to come in and run the ball and he’s gone a great job at it,” Allen told reporters. “As he continues to run the ball like he’s doing, he’s going to continue to get opportunities to run the ball.”
Jennings this season has carried 93 times for 480 yards and a 5.2-yard average. McFadden has 98 carries for 352 yards and a 3.6-yard average – bad numbers for a guy hoping for a contract-year push.
It seems more and more likely that McFadden may be running for some other team in 2014.