Allen: Rashad Jennings is our starting tailback
ALAMEDA – The Raiders have fared just fine without Darren McFadden. The running game remains a consistent threat without No. 20, at times faring better without the veteran feature back.
Either Rashad Jennings or Marcel Reece exceeded 100 yards total offense in five of the six games McFadden has missed. The Raiders rank No. 6 with 134 rushing yards per game despite the fact No. 20's missed six games and most of three others.
With McFadden healthy and primed to play on Sunday against San Diego, how does he fit into the game plan?
The Raiders can’t run every down, and only have one ball to spread around. Jennings will start and be the primary ball carrier, but the Raiders plan to test McFadden early, gauge his explosiveness and make a decision from there.
“I think the big thing will be to roll them in and keep everybody fresh,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said." Rashad has earned the right to start after doing some good things for us, but we’ll run Darren early in the game and see how he feels.”
The Raiders are doing a better job of finding advantageous matchups for Reece, which has allowed his production to spike late in the season.
McFadden’s output has tanked. He had 26 touches on Oct. 27 against Pittsburgh, and 11 since. Hamstring and ankle injuries have stifled on-field activity, and there’s no telling how he’ll respond to live tackling. McFadden was limited Wednesday and Thursday during the week’s physical practices, leaving questions regarding how he’ll hold up against the Chargers defense.
If McFadden struggles or lacks burst early, Jennings will be featured later on. Expect a greater workload if he passes early tests, especially if the Raiders can get a lead.
While fans have largely given up on McFadden, Olson and Raiders players want the oft-injured star to succeed.
“We’d all love to see him stay healthy through these last two games and be very productive,” Olson said. “You stay out of the what if’s and down the road’s, but I know he’s expressed that he’d like to be with the Oakland Raiders, so I think it’s important he has two very productive games here and finish up.”