ALAMEDA – Running backs Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden are explosive when healthy. That hasn’t happened much in recent seasons.
McFadden has always struggled with injury and Jones-Drew has been hampered the past two seasons. If the Raiders can manage to keep the tandem upright, there’s optimism they can retain old form.
“It’s going to be special,” fullback Marcel Reece said Tuesday, following the first workout of the Raiders offseason program. “As you go along in your career, you have to stay healthy. If we keep those guys healthy, I definitely think we’ll have the best tandem in the league.”
Even Reece knows that’s a mighty big “if.”
McFadden hasn’t been right in two seasons, which left many to believe he’d played his final game in silver and black. He came back on an incentive-laden deal with just $100,000 guaranteed for a chance at redemption.
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Jones-Drew came for a chance to compete for significant carries after dipping below 4 yards per rush for the first time in eight years.
Right now, anyway, both players are 100-percent healthy. McFadden is back after hamstring injuries ruined his 2013 season. Jones-Drew is back after suffering foot and ankle injuries. He's committed to dropping weight without losing power, alleviating strain on aging legs.
If they can remain physically fine, early talk suggests Jones-Drew and McFadden will split carries – though a now healthy Latavius Murray could join the mix – but offensive coordinator Greg Olson typically chooses production over pedigree.
“However it plays out, it plays out,” Jones-Drew said. “At the end of the day, you want to win. If I carry the ball 20 times and we lose, what’s the purpose of carrying the ball that many times? If I carry the ball two times and we win, that’s what it’s all about. My goal is to come in and do whatever I can to help this organization get back to where it belongs and if that’s starting, it’s starting. If it’s backing up, it’s backing up.”
Jones-Drew, a East Bay native, is excited to join a Raiders team he grew up rooting for and a running back he’s always respected.
“From afar, being an Oakland Raider fan, I always envious of Darren because he got to wear the jersey and he played well when he was healthy,” Jones-Drew said. “So, to be able to get the opportunity to come out here and compete against one of the most talented younger backs in the league, it’s going to be fun.
“We’re going to see where I am, and see if I still have it.”
If Jones-Drew becomes a feature back or McFadden has a career renaissance, it could give fewer opportunities to Reece, a chronically underused asset by virtue of his fullback position.
In Reece’s mind, that would be a good problem to have.
“I’ve never worried too much about the number of carries I get,” Reece said. “But when I do get them, rest assured, it’s there’s to be excitement for sure.”