NAPA – When life goes wrong, some resort to suicide or terrorist attacks. But the only thing Darren McFadden plans on killing is NFL defenses.
On August 4 the Oakland Raiders published their preseason depth chart, and McFadden was listed behind Maurice Jones-Drew. The 2008 fourth overall pick from Arkansas has been the Week 1 regular season starter at tailback since his rookie year, but it’s not yet time to bury the tradition.
“I’m going out there competing every day, and I fully expect to (start),” McFadden told Sports Out West after the announcement.
The battle for top dog between McFadden and Jones-Drew is not as crucial as one may think. Both backs expect to split carries this season, with the ex-Jacksonville Jaguars star used primarily as a grinder and the incumbent maximized as an open-space weapon. While the pair has stopped short of sharing lunch with each other, McFadden noted that his rival is a good teammate.
“We always talk. We go back and forth about what we see on the field, and he’s a veteran guy, a great guy. I look forward to going out there playing with him.”
McFadden knew what he was getting into when he turned down rosier opportunities to re-sign with the Raiders for one year and $4 million this offseason. In addition to Jones-Drew, the 26-year-old will have to fend off tantalizing prospect Latavius Murray, but stiff competition was apparently never a factor.
“I’m a loyal guy. I want to be here (in Oakland),” stressed McFadden. “I started my career here and you know this is the place I want (to) be. This is like a second home to me.”
Knee, ankle and foot injuries have stunted McFadden’s potential, causing him to miss 29 of 96 regular season games. The Raiders recently changed the back’s weight lifting routines in an attempt to keep him healthier (as reported by Jerry McDonald), but his in-game habits may be the issue. McFadden models himself after Terrell Davis and Jerome Bettis, two north-south runners who also struggled with injuries. Nonetheless, the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder is ready to give his shoulder-checking strut another go.
“My body feels great and my health is good, so I’m looking forward to getting out there and playing.”
McFadden’s best pro season was in 2010 when he rushed for 1,157 yards on 223 attempts (5.2 average) and 507 yards through the air on 47 catches (10.8 average) with 10 total touchdowns in 13 games. McFadden led the league in rushing yards (610) through Week 6 in 2011 before a Lisfranc injury did him in.
Recognizing his career is at a crossroads, the six-year veteran is primed to take advantage of a rebuilt front five and make his name infamous in Raiders lore.
“I want to be one of those guys that people say had a bad start to my career as far as injuries and things, but came on strong towards the end of my career and left a lasting impression on the league.”
“I’m just looking forward to getting the season started.”
Photo Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press