Raiders position-by-position breakdown: Running backs

Bair: Motivated McFadden looking to regain old form

Raiders position-by-position breakdown: Running backs
July 17, 2013, 9:15 am
Share This Post

The Raiders averaged 88.8 rushing yards per game last year, fifth-worst in the league. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

Editor’s note: Insider Scott Bair will be providing position-by-position breakdowns each day leading up to Raiders training camp. The full squad will report on July 24, with the first practice day scheduled for July 26. Today, Scott focuses on the running backs.

Who they have: RBs Darren McFadden, Rashad Jennings, Latavius Murray and Deonte Williams. FBs Marcel Reece, Jeremy Stewart Jamize Olawale and Jon Hoese

Who they lost: RB Mike Goodson

Looking back: The Raiders had a disastrous season running the football last year. Their ground game ranked 28th in the NFL, with 88 yards per game, and blame fell on a zone-blocking scheme that cost offensive coordinator Greg Knapp his job. Darren McFadden averaged a career-worst 3.3 yards per carry and had just three total touchdowns in 2012. Zone blocking hurt McFadden the most, taking away his ability to shake tacklers, improvise on the fly and grind out extra yards. An ankle injury sidelined him four games and marked the fifth straight season health issues slowed him down.

[RELATED: Darren McFadden career stats | 2012 game logs]

Overall outlook: McFadden couldn’t be more motivated heading into a contract year. Last year’s frustration is this season’s drive, and he’s vowed to be the dynamic workhorse of years past. New coordinator Greg Olson installed a power-based rushing system that should benefit McFadden’s downhill rushing style. It will also aid fullback Marcel Reese, a 255-pound bruiser who can block in two-back formations and run in short-yardage situations. But the running game will hinge on McFadden's health and performance during a season where he'll get a ton of carries.

[RELATED: Marcel Reece career stats | 2012 game logs]

Camp competition: The right to be McFadden’s backup could fall to Murray, a sixth-round draft pick out of Central Florida. That’s an important role given McFadden’s injury history, and the 223-pound Murray fits the Raiders scheme. He missed part of the offseason program with a foot injury, so he must make the most of training camp and his preseason carries to earn the No. 2 spot. Fourth-year veteran Rashad Jennings will also get a shot at regular-season carries. He came via free agency from Jacksonville, where he averaged 2.8 yards per carry and struggled filling in for Maurice Jones-Drew.