NAPA — Darren McFadden hopes that going downhill will be just the tonic to revive his career with the Raiders.
Back in a familiar offense that suits his running style perfectly, McFadden is looking to bounce back from a disastrous 2012 campaign and return to the big-play back he was for the two years Hue Jackson ran the Raiders’ offense.
Oakland switched schemes after Jackson was fired as coach following the 2011 season, returning to the same zone blocking system under coordinator Greg Knapp that McFadden struggled with early in his career. Those struggles returned and McFadden had one of the worst years ever for a Raiders back.
With new coordinator Greg Olsen bringing back a power running system, the Raiders are hoping to see the old McFadden, who was one of the league’s top backs the previous two years.
“It feels great,” McFadden said of the new offense. “I feel like I’m a downhill runner and it’s something that coaches see also. By us getting into a gap scheme offense, being able to get downhill, they feel like that suits me a lot more. I’m looking forward, O-line is doing a great job, getting in there on a double-team and opening holes up.”
The Raiders practiced in pads for the first time in training camp on Sunday, giving the first real test of whether the running game has improved after dragging down the offense during a 4-12 season last year that cost Knapp his job.
The biggest problem was McFadden’s struggles in the zone running scheme that does not fit his style of play. After averaging more than 5 yards per carry in each of his two seasons in Jackson’s offense, McFadden averaged just 3.3 last season — the lowest ever for a Raiders back with at least 150 carries in a season.
“Last year is last year,” McFadden said. “We put that behind us. We have a lot of new faces here, a new offensive scheme, and there are a lot of new things going on. We’re not going to concern ourselves with what went on last year. We’ll look forward to this year.”