Heading into Week Six, Oakland ranks last in the league with 60.8 rushing yards per game and observers around the league are wondering why one of the league’s most talented backs, Raiders RB Darren McFadden, is gaining only 3.5 yards per carry.
Some have suggested he’s not a great fit for the team’s zone-blocking scheme, implemented this season by offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, while others say McFadden’s not as explosive as he was in the past.
Through a quarter of the 2012 season, McFadden has not been the same player that gained more than five yards per carry in each of the past two seasons.
Prior to this season, McFadden gained 4.2 yards per carry in the first half in his career and 5.4 yards per carry in the second half. This season, while he only has 26 second-half carries, he’s moving in the opposite direction — starting strong and wearing down. McFadden is gaining 4.6 yards per carry (31-143) in the first half and only 2.2 yards per carry (26-58) in the second half.
McFadden seemed to grow stronger over the course of games in recent years. Since 2010, McFadden averaged 4.5 yards on his first 10 rushing attempts and 6.8 yards on carries 11-20. Through four games this season, McFadden is gaining 4.6 yards per carry (40-184) on attempts 1-10 and a meager one yard per carry (17-17) on attempts 11-20.
Part of the problem for the Raiders is they have held a lead for only 11:45 of the 240 minutes of game time they have played this season. They have faced some steep deficits. It has led to them to try to throw their way back into games — QB Carson Palmer’s pass attempts (162) are more than double the team’s total rushing attempts (71) and almost three times the number of rushing attempts for McFadden (57). That is not a recipe for success for the Raiders.
The only time this season that McFadden had more carries in the second half than he did in the first half was the Raiders’ lone win of the season — a comeback victory over the Steelers in Week Three.
Until the Raiders figure out how to jumpstart McFadden and their running game, the trend of falling behind in games will be a tough one for them to break.