Darren McFadden had a down year in 2012, there’s no arguing that. If the Oakland Raiders plan on being competitive this season, a great deal of the load is going to be on his shoulders. He will need to do much better than the 3.3 yards per carry he averaged last season.
There are a few signs that point to McFadden having a bounce-back season.
For starters, Gregg Knapp is gone. Knapp is a well respected offensive coordinator around the league. When he was with the Houston Texans, he learned the zone block running scheme from Gary Kubiak. He attempted to bring that scheme back to Oakland and it was never a fit for McFadden or the offensive line.
New offensive coordinator Greg Olsen has gone to a downhill running scheme. That type of scheme highlights what McFadden likes to do. It is much more suited to his running style.
Another thing that will help McFadden return to form this season is offensive line coach Tony Sporano. Sporano failed as an offensive coordinator last season with the New York Jets, but is known for his ability to coach lineman. His coaching the offensive line was a huge reason the wildcat was successful when he was the head coach of the Miami Dolphins. He will get the best out of every lineman he coaches this year.
The biggest reason McFadden will return back to form this season is because it is a contract year. He will be 26 years-old once the season begins and this will probably be his last chance at a big payday. He will work hard to get paid in the ballpark of stars like Chris Johnson, Matt Forte, Ray Rice, and Arian Foster. Before being hurt in 2012, in the downhill system that has been re-installed in Oakland, he was leading the league in rushing. His contract status should bring the motivation for him to have that type of season this year.
If the Raiders have any plans on fighting for a playoff spot, it is imperative that McFadden finds a way to round himself back in to his 2010 form when he rushed for over 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns. It won’t matter who the team places at quarterback if he cannot bring balance to the offense.
Photo Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP