Can McFadden thrive with zone-blocking scheme?

September 16, 2012, 10:54 pm
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The first time in Darren McFadden's NFL career the Raiders employed a zone-blocking scheme, the not-yet all-everything running back was being fitted for the bust label.So now, two games into the Raiders' return to the ZBS and a West Coast offense under offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, McFadden has all of 54 rushing yards, after going for 22 yards on 11 carries in a 35-13 loss to Miami on Sunday.Small sample size, to be sure, but it sure looks like McFadden is anything but comfortable in this scheme, doesn't it?Well, no way, no how was McFadden going to rip his returning O.C., so he said the politically correct thing when I asked him about his comfort level in it."I'm very comfortable in this scheme," McFadden said. "I just feel like we have to get going. Like I say, you hit one or two runs here, three-yard runs here, and eventually it's going to start popping."But when? There are already questions about McFadden's durability -- he is coming off a Lisfranc injury to his right foot that limited him to six-plus games last year -- and the way San Diego crashed down on him in the Raiders' opener and the manner in which the Dolphins' snuffed out the run Sunday, you have to scratch your head, no? Especially with the Raiders running for a combined -1 yard in the second half against the Dolphins.Which makes you wonder if the Raiders abandoned the run too soon in a game in which they ran it eight times, for 24 yards, in the first half but 15 times after halftime, for that combined one-yard loss."I don't know what we averaged a run but we kept trying to get it going and kept trying to get it going because that's really what kind of dictates what gets our offense going, in the play-action game, especially," said quarterback Carson Palmer."We stuck with it and stuck with it and stuck with it and unfortunately, (Miami) just did a really good job with it up front and didn't let us get any big runs and the explosive run gains that we wanted."The Raiders averaged 1.6 yards per rush, and the longest run McFadden had against the Dolphins was for four yards."You can't look at those stats and say, 'Well, O.K., we're not going to run the ball anymore,'" Palmer said. "We're going to continue to run the ball. Where the big plays in this offense come from is off the running game, and Darren's a guy that can score from anywhere on the field. We realize that and defenses realize that so we're not going to abandon it whatsoever."We're going to continue to work at it, we're going to continue to get better at it, and he's going to get his chances because he's obviously a special talent and we're going to get him his opportunities."Maybe it's not merely McFadden's relative lack of success in the ZBS. Maybe it has something to do with the opponent. After all, in three games against the Dolphins, McFadden has carried the ball 22 times for 37 yards.Even when he had a clear path to the end zone Sunday, he dropped a pass that hit him between the numbers at the goal line. This after he missed a series following his getting poked in the left eye and having a protective visor put on his helmet.Bad matchup? Whatever the case, the Raiders had to throw the ball 48 times and became too predictable, allowing the Dolphins to simply pin their ears back and rush Palmer, as the Chargers did six days prior."We've been doing a great job moving the ball, passing the ball, but once we get the run and the pass back (together) there," McFadden said, "we'll be one of the elite offenses in the league."Coach Dennis Allen did not think the Raiders abandoned the run too soon, not with the score getting out of hand."I think we were being effective throwing the football," Allen said. "I think you're got to go with what the game dictates. I'm not going to second guess. We did what we had to do to try to win the football game and it didn't work out."So despite the relative lack of success in the ZBS, does Allen still have confidence in it?"Absolutely," he said. "Absolutely. I've seen it work. Believe in it."