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Raiders' Running Game Has Slowed to a Crawl

McFadden isn't finding any holes, which leads some to wonder if new zone-blocking scheme is the problem

By Doug Williams
|  Monday, Sep 17, 2012  |  Updated 8:27 AM PDT
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Raiders Run Game More of a Crawl

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Raiders running back Darren McFadden hasn't yet been sprung free from defenses.

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Over two games, the Oakland Raiders have rushed for 55 yards on 34 carries. That’s 1.61 yard per carry, which isn’t good in the NFL, college, high school or pee-wee football.

Going into this season, the Raiders were excited about their running game with the return of a healthy Darren McFadden and a new zone-blocking scheme on the offensive line that players and coaches believed would better fit their personnel, particularly McFadden.

So far, however, the running game has been a flop. But, the Raiders say they’ll keep at it. It’s a priority.

“We’re going to get it,” Raiders fullback Marcel Reese told Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times. “That’s what we do. That’s what we live by.

“D-Mac is our bell cow, and I take it personal to get him going, as my running back. It’s something that we’re going to make sure happens.”

Head coach Dennis Allen and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp believe in the zone-blocking scheme over what the Raiders used the past few seasons, a power-blocking scheme that regularly sprung McFadden and backup Michael Bush for big gains.

Allen, in his first year, says he’s sticking with it. Despite an 0-2 start and an inability to run the football, he’s committed to zone-blocking.

“Absolutely,” he told the Bay Area News Group. “Absolutely. I’ve seen it work. I believe in it.”

Against the Dolphins on Sunday in a 35-13 Oakland loss, McFadden had just 22 yards on 11 carries.

Though he’s had trouble finding open holes, McFadden says he feels very comfortable reading the blocks in front of him. The zone-blocking scheme, in theory, should allow a quick cut-back runner such as McFadden the freedom to find running lanes.

“I just feel like we have to get going,” he told Corkran. “You hit one or two runs here, 3-yard runs here, and eventually it’s going to start popping.”

But, as Kareem Copeland of NFL.com wrote Sunday after Oakland’s loss in Miami, “Where in the world is Darren McFadden? Run DMC is MIA.”

McFadden attributed the team’s inability to run the ball against the Dolphins more to Miami’s front seven than any problems in blocking, saying simply that “they stopped us from doing it.”

Coming into the season, the Raiders had hoped McFadden’s return would give the team some balance offensively and provide a great 1-2 punch combined with Carson Palmer’s passing ability.

So far, the offense has been lopsided, having to rely on the passing game.

Palmer for one believes it’s only a matter of time until the running game clicks.

“You don’t just install a bunch of plays and get really good at cut blocking and giving him those cutback lanes,” Palmer said of McFadden and the offensive line after Sunday’s loss. “It’s something that we have to continue to work at, and we will. We’ll get better at it each practice. He’s 100 percent the right guy for this system.”

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