Veldheer: 'We're going to try to create as big of holes as possible'
The Raiders' offensive linemen believe Darren McFadden will benefit from their new blocking scheme. (AP)
The Raiders offense is structured around Darren McFadden, offering a physical style that could wear defenses down. (AP)
Jared Veldheer: “We know how damaging it can be for another team with all those big plays that he can make." (USA TODAY IMAGES)
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NAPA – Last season is dead to Darren McFadden.
The Raiders' star running back chooses to forget a 4-12 campaign where a previously proud rushing attack lost its swagger while reaching new lows.
“We’ve put that behind us,” he said. “We’re not going to concern ourselves with what went on last year. We’ll look forward to this year.”
The rearview mirror isn’t pretty.
The Raiders averaged just 88 yards per game, 28th-best in the NFL. McFadden averaged just 3.3-yards per carry and scored just three touchdowns. The running game was plodding and mundane, with just eight carries of 20 yards or more.
The numbers tell you the zone-blocking experiment failed miserably. They don’t tell you why.
“Running the ball well is an interesting thing,” left guard Tony Bergstrom said. “Sometimes, I think it’s less about X’s and O’s than it is about attitude.”
Zone blocking didn’t fit the Raiders’ talent. It didn’t fit their personality either.
Greg Olson’s powerful, gap-control blocking scheme certainly does. It recalls great rushing seasons of yesteryear and the not-too-distant past, when McFadden and Michael Bush controlled the tempo.
It’s brought a sense of optimism to those involved in the rushing attack, especially a centerpiece the offense is structured around. The scheme is designed to create creases for McFadden to run downhill, be physical and fight for yards after contact.
McFadden likes it, and the linemen love it.
“The zone scheme is designed to stretch people out and try to find a crease somewhere,” center Stefen Wisniewski said. “This scheme is about making a crease by moving people, and that definitely requires a different attitude. It’s one that most O-lineman, and certainly the O-linemen we have, are embracing. We’re excited. We want to drive people off the ball. We’re all buying into it, and McFadden is going to like it as well.”
Sunday was the a true example of that. The Raiders’ first practice in pads provided the first glimpse of the scheme in action, and the linemen had a blast pushing people around after an offseason focused on technique.
[CAMP REPORT: O-line enjoys first pad in practice]
Knowing how good McFadden can be and how appreciative he is of the linemen working for him, the offensive front is rooting for their star back to have a career year.
“We love having him back there and we’re going to try to create as big a whole as possible for him,” left tackle Jared Veldheer said. “We know how damaging it can be for another team with all those big plays that he can make. Even just grinding out those five yard carries, he’s a very good back and you know we’re happy to be in a kind of system that lets him do his thing.”
The offense is structured around McFadden, offering a physical style that could wear defenses down and open up big plays as a game progresses. “I love a downhill scheme, so I’m very confident about what we’re doing,” McFadden said. “I’ll just be able to get out there and go downhill. That’s one of my strong points.”