ALAMEDA -- What had been a cause for concern all summer when it came to Darren McFadden has come to fruition.And it has nothing to do with injuries.But while McFadden has more than struggled behind the Raiders' new zone-blocking scheme this season, rookie coach Dennis Allen insists he looks on tape like the same player he was last year."Yeah, he does," Allen said. "He's still an explosive player. We've got to do a better job of creating some room for him to run. We've incorporated a few more of those gap scheme-type plays and again, you can say this on every play, but we're one block here or one block there away from a big run."In six games, McFadden has rushed for 324 yards, on 103 carries. Take away his 64-yard touchdown run against Pittsburgh and his average of 3.1-yards per carry falls to a paltry 2.6 yards-per-carry average.Through six games a year ago, and behind Oakland's power-blocking scheme, McFadden was leading the NFL in rushing with 610 yards on 111 carries, a 5.5 yards-per-carry average.It was the seventh game last year in which McFadden suffered his season-ending Lis Franc injury, against Kansas City.He insists he is not frustrated, despite the noticeable downtick in production running the ball. McFadden finished with 53 yards on 19 carries against the Jaguars, after having just 10 yards on eight carries in the first half."Just have to stay focused at the task at hand," he said Monday. "Keep pushing. It's one of those things you can't get down on yourself, can't get down on the offense. Just keep playing ball and eventually it's going to happen."Allen concurred."Go back and look at the Pittsburgh game and that was his best rushing output of the (season) and he had an explosive run," Allen said, referring to the 64-yarder. "That's how you get those big games. You have one or two explosive runs in a game and all of a sudden you look up and here's a guy with a hundred-and-something yards rushing."So that's what we've got to continue to do. We've got to continue to work in the running game and I feel that if we continue to hand the ball off to him, those big runs are going to come."Many fans held their breath and wondered why, just after McFadden landed on his already-sore shoulder against Jacksonville, McFadden retreated to the tunnel area leading to the locker rooms."I just went behind the bleachers real quick to use the bathroom," McFadden said with a laugh.Just as many, though, would just as soon flush the Raiders' current offensive scheme down the toilet with, they say, McFadden not being utilized to his talents.Allen admitted the Raiders' run game still has a ways to go when asked if he was "surprised" it has not gotten going yet."Well, I dont know if 'surprised' is the word," Allen said. "Im disappointed that its not doing better. Again, were going to continue to work, continue to see what we can do better, both as a coaching staff and how can we execute better to give our guys a chance to be successful."I dont think theres any doubt that we want, and need, to run the ball better than we have."
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Jack Del Rio have done three pre-draft press conferences now. They’ve got the routine down, knowing when to deflect questions, when to put people off the scent and, more importantly, how to seem unpredictable.
They were in lockstep again Friday, less than a week before the 2017 NFL Draft.
During their first, McKenzie offered one criticism of his head coach.
“Can you guys get Jack out of my office?” McKenzie said in 2015, with tongue firmly in cheek.
The rhetorical question was answered with a laugh. McKenzie was acknowledging how much Del Rio and staff wanted to support the scouting process. McKenzie ultimately pulls the trigger on draft day, but Del Rio has a loud voice in the room as he looks for players who fit his locker room and his schemes.
McKenzie has open ears, taking advice from the entire coaching staff while arranging his draft board. This time of year especially, coaches and scouts are working together.
“It’s been unified since Day 1,” Del Rio said. “Reggie and I are very unified and much on the same mission and that is to bring a world championship home to this organization. Everything we’re doing is attacking that, adding these impact players where we can.”
The pair was focused on improving a lackluster roster that featured Derek Carr and Khalil Mack but finished 3-13 the year before. Now their partnership is entering Phase II.
They must decide which players to add, and decide which previously drafted players to keep. There are some obvious extensions in the works, with Carr, Mack and Gabe Jackson. They had to let some homegrown talent go in free agency as they attempt to upgrade depth and build a championship roster that can build on last year’s success.
“There’s a whole different phase that we’re about to go through as an organization as you begin to mature, some of those players have to be re-signed or not. Those are decisions you have to make in all of this. This is year three for us working together and I feel like the relationship with the scouts and the coaches and the sharing of information is excellent. We want to continue to work that way.”
The Raiders have an opening in their secondary.
Finding a slot cornerback is a top priority with DJ Hayden now in Detroit. TJ Carrie is an option there, but the Raiders could add a young, versatile talent capable of taking a more prominent role down the line.
That’s true despite the fact Sean Smith signed a free-agent deal through 2019 last year and David Amerson received a contract extension through the 2020 season. Those contracts, however, become pay-as-you-go deals after this season.
The dead money goes away, freeing the Raiders to look for long-term upgrades if they see fit.
Head coach Jack Del Rio loves creating competition and depth, especially at such an important position in today’s NFL. The Raiders like larger, physical cornerbacks with ball skills, and there are plenty in this year’s draft.
Many analysts have the Raiders taking a cornerback at No. 24 overall, and that’s a realistic possibility. They could certainly look to help last year’s No. 24-ranked secondary in the early rounds.
Let’s take a look at some top options available in this week’s draft:
Good fits:There are quite a few quality cornerbacks who could be available at No. 24 overall, even if there’s an early run on the position.
Oakland native and Washington alum Kevin King visited the Raiders during the pre-draft process, and certainly fits what the Raiders like in a cornerback. He’s confident and aggressive, unafraid to use great physical traits to make plays on the ball. He’s tall and long and isn’t afraid to tackle.
USC’s Adoree Jackson has the quality ball skills the Raiders like, and is adept high-pointing the ball. Analysts say he can play several coverage techniques and has the agility to make up for mistakes. He can work in the slot, but at 5-foot-10 isn’t as tall as the Raiders like. They’d have to take him in the first round. He may not last beyond that.
San Jose native and Colorado product Chidobe Awuzie is another interesting local defensive back ready to turn pro. He can play outside or in the slot, and analysts say he has excellent one-on-one coverage skills but needs tackling work. He was a solid slot blitzer at Colorado, and could fill an immediate need crucial against so many three and four receiver sets.
Louisiana State’s Tre’Davious White has experience playing the slot, and could help right away there before transferring outside if asked. He can cover extremely well, though analysts say he isn’t much of a tackler. He might be a tweener as far as the Raiders are concerned, not worthy of the No. 24 pick but long gone before the Raiders pick in the second round.
Central Florida’s Shaquill Griffin visited the Raiders this spring, and rightfully so. A willing run defender with good ball skills and tackling ability who could be available in the third round should intrigue them.