Monday, August 13, 2012

The Darren McFadden Effect: RunDMC Gives Oakland Best Shot at Winning Games

Tonight is the night we will get to see Oakland's Darren McFadden back in action during the Raiders' preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys. With Michael Bush departing for Chicago, it appears as though RunDMC (McFadden's nickname) will need to be as healthy as ever in 2012.

Mike Goodson, Carolina's former third stringer who filled in for the injured Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams two seasons ago by running for 452 yards and 3 TDs in three 2010 starts, was brought in to replace Bush as McFadden's backup.

Goodson played in all 16 games two seasons ago while filling in briefly, but last season very rarely saw the field (1 reception, 11 kick returns all season). He was hit hard during practice about a week ago and was carted off the field with an injured neck, but is expected to be ready for the opening of the regular season.

McFadden's NFL career has certainly gotten off to a rocky start. The fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft, McFadden has yet to play a complete season as he now enters his fifth year in the Raiders organization.

Running for 1,157 yards and seven TDs two seasons ago while averaging 5.2 yards per carry or better for two straight campaigns, McFadden has certainly shown ability and potential. It's inconsistency, however, that has made it tough for Oakland's fan base, and fantasy owners everywhere, to watch.
A guy who was once regarded as a true No. 1 back and a lock to break 1,000 rushing yards and close to double digit TDs totals yearly, is now seen as an injury prone risk. His best season by far was 2010 when he ran for over 1,000 yards the only time of his career yet still only started 13 games due to a hamstring injury suffered on October 3.

Over his career, RunDMC has averaged 657 yards and four touchdowns a season. Those are the types of numbers you'd see a second-string, possibly even a third-string running back putting up. But in just 32 starts over four season, it appears as though he's seen about as much playing time as a backup would. If he were to start every game, he would have exactly doubled his start count, to 64, which would have led to double the production.

No matter how much, or how little, of the field he's seen over the years due to the numerous injuries he's been battling, there's no doubting the idea that the Oakland Raiders are a far more dangerous team when he is carrying the football.

Numbers never lie, and this is certainly the case for McFadden and the struggling Oakland organization.

Since coming into the league in 2008, the Raiders have put up a combined record of 26-38 under three different head coaches. Two 5-11 campaigns in '08 and '09, then two mediocre 8-8 campaigns in '10 and '11.

Inconsistent quarterback play and less-than-average coaching could be to blame for the disappointing seasons. Or, you could say McFadden hasn't lived up to expectations. Either way, lets take a closer look at the Raiders with and effective Darren running the football, and an ineffective Darren running the football (or no Darren at all). The numbers tell it all.

Overall, the Raiders have a losing record in games that McFadden has appeared in since his 2008 rookie campaign (19-26), but in games that he ran for either 100 yards or a TD the Raiders have been much more successful with a 9-3 record. In multi-TD games for McFadden, Oakland is 3-1.
Those three records in comparison show that when McFadden is in the zone, Oakland has a much higher percent chance of winning the game.

We can dig a little deeper and take a closer look at when McFadden receives 10 or more carries as well. In 18 of McFadden's 45 games, he received less than 10 carries throughout the game. Now, clearly if you aren't touching the ball for at least 10 plays, you aren't making a huge impact on the outcome.

In those 27 games in which he did carry the ball for 10 or more times, the Raiders went 15-12. In games in which he ran 20 or more times, the Raiders went 6-2. The only time McFadden received 30 carries in a single game was on September 19, 2010 against the St. Louis Rams, and the outcome was 145 rushing yards and a 16-14 victory.

Moral of the story? Get McFadden the ball early and often to put your team in position to win. McFadden has struggled mightily to stay healthy enough for 20-25 touches a game, but he has shown over his career that good things happen when he gets a lot of touches each game.

The 24-year old has run for 150 or more yards throughout his 32 starts just four times (164, 165, 150, 171), including his second career game and most recently twice last September, but the Raiders have proven unbeatable during that occurrence. They are a perfect 4-0 in those games, including a 59-14 romping of division rival Denver two Octobers ago. In that game McFadden set a personal-best 3 TDs as it took him just 16 attempts to run for 165 yards (10.3 YPC).

Clearly, when McFadden is healthy and gets his fair share of touches, he doesn't go easy on opponents. On 12 separate occasions RunDMC posted a 5.0 yards/carry average in a game in which he received 10 or more rushing attempts. Seven of those went for 100+ yards and three more fell just short of that mark.

Are any of these McFadden facts impressing you yet? No? Well, okay, here's one more piece of information to digest before you make up your mind and decide whether or not to jump on the McFadden bandwagon: his injury history.
Staying healthy is the most important thing that NFL running backs deal with, and it's one of the biggest downsides to McFadden's game. Throughout his NFL career he's dealt with many different injuries to his body which caused him to miss nine starts in 2011 and 2009 and three starts in 2010.

*In his 2008 rookie campaign, McFadden suffered a toe injury against Kansas City in Week 2 which limited him for the rest of the season (finished season w/ 499 yards, 4 TD on 113 attempts in 5 starts/13 games).

*In 2009 McFadden battled numerous injuries, including a knee injury that kept him out for four games (finished season w/ 357 yards, 1 TD on 104 attempts...7 starts/12 games).

*In 2010, McFadden's breakout season, he ran for a career-best 1,157 yards and 7 TDs on 223 attempts. He missed just three starts due to a hamstring injury. This season was the only time McFadden ran the ball for 200+ times in his career.

*In 2011, McFadden was back to his beat-up self, missing the last nine games of the season due to a foot injury suffered in October. He finished his seven-start season with 614 yards and four TDs on, again, just 113 carries.

This year is vital for McFadden to be fully healthy and in the lineup each week, especially considering Bush is gone and current backup Mike Goodson, who basically had last season off, is already dinged up in camp and doesn't appear to be fully ready to be a complete backup to McFadden in Oakland, though he was effective in Carolina when he saw the field.

Carson Palmer will be heading in to his first full season under center for Oakland, and with Dennis Allen heading in to his first season as the franchise's head coach, the Raiders should be excited about getting the 2012 season underway.

At the young age of 24, McFadden still has yet to hit his full potential and has plenty left to offer for the Oakland offense. Darren finally has a true No. 1 quarterback at the helm in the 32-year old Palmer, meaning this offense could finally see some balance this season.

I see the Pro Bowl and a couple of All Pro selections in McFadden's future.

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