The decline for aging rushers is typically steep. An unstoppable force one season can look a step slow the next.
These are but platitudes, generally accepted and applied to running backs encroaching 30.
Maurice Jones-Drew would like to remember the time you associated them with him. The Raiders running back prefers you recall them this season before eating crow.
The same goes for teammate Darren McFadden, just 26 but branded injury prone.
“Everyone has an opinion so you have to give them that freedom of speech. Everybody can say what they want,” Jones-Drew said Tuesday. “But I just want everyone, whoever said it, to stick to that. Don't be the same guy in a couple weeks, a couple months saying, 'Oh we knew they could do it.' Just continue to be that person, hold yourself accountable like everyone holds us.”
Well, turn on the tape, Maurice. This one’s on the record. I think the East Bay native will return to a form sapped last season by injury and the lack of a real offseason. His per carry average dropped to 3.4 yards, an aberration by any standard. To let you know how good his previous seven seasons were, the lackluster stats lowered his career average to 4.5 yards per carry.
That would certainly help the offense go. So would a healthy McFadden, which has proven less reliable in recent seasons than Jones-Drew’s hard charging.
The Raiders hope to get production from both in a scheme that prefers tough running to set up the passing game. The Raiders haven’t put pads on yet and won’t until training camp, but these rushers sees production ahead, and has no problem saying so.
“We hold ourselves accountable to whatever we say, whatever we do,” Jones-Drew said. “Talking with the guys here, we feel like we have something that we can build on. I know what I did last year wasn't nowhere near what I'm capable of doing and so this year I'm doing everything I can to get back to the form I'm used to, and I know Darren is as well.”
McFadden knows injuries have hindered him for far too long. He hasn’t completed a 16-game professional season and has averaged just 3.3 yards per carry over the past two seasons.
McFadden and Jones-Drew are in search of redemption, but it’s not something to spend time on.
“It's something that's unspoken,” McFadden said. “For us, we just go out there and play ball. We don't think about what happened in the past. For me, the past is behind me. I don't even care to even talk about it really. I'm moving forward. The only place I can go is up.”
There’s been some talk of carry splits recently -- second-year pro Latavius Murray could fit in there, too -- but percentages will sort out in time. Both backs naturally want to maximize their workload, though it’s unlikely their on-field efforts will be equal. The pair, competitive yet friendly, will have chances to earn their touches as the year goes along.
“I feel like the touches are going to go around however it goes, whether one guy gets them first or the other guy gets them first,” McFadden said. “It's just all about what you do with the ball when you get the chance.”