ALAMEDA (AP) — A slow start is nothing new for Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden. Neither is the criticism he’s endured for the past several seasons.
Playing in a read-option offense where the quarterback gets more rushing yards than the running backs? That’s a challenge that has required a little bit more of an adjustment — and patience — by McFadden.
Terrelle Pryor’s breakout performance in last week’s opener overshadowed an otherwise disappointing day from Oakland’s running game and raised concerns about McFadden’s role in the Raiders’ new offense.
Not that McFadden seems bothered too much. If anything, he expects Pryor’s scrambling to create more opportunities for the running game.
“Being able to have a running quarterback, that’s something that’s going to open up the running game for a running back,” McFadden said Friday. “A lot of defenses try to key in on him, but at the same time they have to worry about the running back also.”
Coming off one of the worst statistical years of his NFL career, McFadden was shut down for most of the afternoon last week by a mediocre Indianapolis Colts run defense and averaged less than three yards a carry.
Pryor, conversely, broke Rich Gannon’s 13-year-old record for rushing yards by a Raiders quarterback with 112 yards on 13 carries.
Most of Pryor’s yards came on broken pass plays where he had to scramble to avoid the pass rush before taking off downfield. Only a few came on designed runs where Pryor faked to McFadden then kept the ball himself.
McFadden finished with 45 yards on 17 carries, his longest run going for nine yards.
Those aren’t the results the Raiders expected when they changed blocking schemes in the offseason, trashing the zone system in favor of a power scheme better suited to McFadden’s abilities.
When Pryor beat out Matt Flynn for the starting quarterback job, however, the offense underwent more changes.
“Really you just want to be patient,” McFadden said of playing in the read-option. “You want to get the ball and then just try to read it as you get to the hole. When you see the hole, just hit it.”
Pryor’s performance earned him national attention and had some people re-evaluating their preseason predictions on the Raiders while McFadden took another wave of criticism from fans and the media.
His average of 2.8 yards per carry certainly didn’t help, particularly after McFadden had a career-low 3.3-yard mark in 2012.
The Raiders gave McFadden some added insurance on Friday when they signed fullback Marcel Reece to a three-year extension.
Reece has been McFadden’s lead blocker since both players signed with the Raiders in 2008, McFadden as a first-round pick and Reece as an undrafted free agent.