Raiders running back Darren McFadden (No. 20) may have more success running behind a new offensive line in 2014. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
After wholesale changes, including the addition of a new quarterback, the Raiders’ offense is a bit of a mystery heading into 2014.
Will Oakland let quarterback Matt Schaub throw the ball all day long? Or will the Raiders – with a revamped offensive line and running backs Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew – run the ball first and pass second?
Apparently, Oakland is banking on a running game to set the tempo.
“We’re going to run the ball, run the ball, then run it again until the defense stops us,” said offensive tackle Donald Penn in an interview Monday on Sirius XM NFL Radio.
Oakland certainly invested heavily in blockers this offseason. They took Gabe Jackson in the third round of the draft, and he could be the team’s starter at left guard; they brought in veteran free agents Penn, Austin Howard and Kevin Boothe; and they hope that 2013 second-round pick Menelik Watson can win the starting job at right tackle. On paper, at least, the Raiders have the makings of their best offensive line in several seasons.
And, if McFadden, Jones-Drew and second-year back Latavius Murray are healthy in 2014, Oakland could indeed have the ingredients for a solid running game.
Being able to run the ball might be the biggest factor in allowing Schaub to get back on track in Oakland after a horrible year with the Texans. Once upon a time Schaub could carry an offense – he led the NFL in passing yards, attempts and completions in 2009 – but he may need time to find his confidence and accuracy again in 2014. So, running the football successfully should take a lot of pressure off Schaub.
And certainly in an AFC West in which teams like the Broncos and Chargers can score points in a hurry, running the ball well will help the Raiders control the ball, keep the ball out of the hands of Petyon Manning and Philip Rivers and keep games within reach.
Judging by Penn’s statement, it seems the running game is No. 1 on Oakland’s priority list. And Allen now believes he has the players to execute. In fact, he recently said that Jones-Drew and McFadden have looked terrific in recent practices.
“I see two guys that if they can stay healthy, can still perform at a high level,” said Allen.
In 2013, injuries depleted both the offensive line and running back positions. Now the line is much deeper and more talented and gives the Raiders some flexibility.
Jones-Drew, for one, is eager to get the ball and see what he can do behind a new group of blockers. He's been impressed with what he's seen in OTAs and minicamp.
“I’ve been around some great offensive lines, and these guys have the potential to be one of the best I’ve ever played with,” Jones-Drew recently told reporters. “To see how some of these guys have grown since April is amazing.”