Oakland Raiders: Should We be Concerned About the Raiders Backfield?
Jerry Rump – Aug 24, 2012
When it comes to the Oakland Raiders’ running game this preseason, it is an all or nothing event. By that, I mean it’s more of the one and a whole lot less of the other. Ok, I am saying the running game is either dominant as ever with Darren McFadden embarrassing defenders and scaring the haters to the point of premature bowel movements, or, it is pretty much nonexistent, and at times, detrimental to the team (Goodson’s two fumbles in the last game at Arizona).
When DMC has been in there for all of his 13 plays this preseason, he has showed the form that had him leading the league in rushing through week six last season and even had a couple screen passes that he just missed taking to the house. However, it was disappointing to see the Cardinals defense stuff him twice last week in back to back goal to go situations from the one yard line.
What is more concerning for Raider Nation at this point though is what is going on when McFadden is not in the game. As all together, the other 49 rushing plays have produced a dismal 145 yards and just one touchdown.
The problem at backup running back has to be a major concern to those around the Raider Nation. Especially since Michael Bush took his talents to Chicago and the number two spot is up for grabs this season.
So this should be a position battle providing tons of excitement for fans to watch as guys duel it out to become the next star in one of the league’s most deadly running attacks. Right?!!
So, what’s the problem?
One major issue has been injuries as both top backups have sustained them in camp.
For instance, the guy many slated to be the main backup to DMC has not played a down yet. The second year back out of Eastern Washington, Taiwan Jones, has been absent pretty much all of training camp as he continues to be hampered by a hamstring. The good news here is he is expected to play this week versus the Detroit Lions.
Of those that have carried the rock thus far, Lonyae Miller has been the one that would get my vote to make the team if decisions had to be made today. Miller has not done anything impressive as he racked up 93 yards in 30 carries and scored the only rushing TD the team possesses, but he has been consistent and that’s more than can be said about Mike Goodson, our free-agent acquisition from Carolina that was brought in to replace Michael Bush.
As a matter of fact, according to the team’s website, Carson Palmer has more yards, with 12, and a better average per carry at this point than anyone except rookie WR, Juron Criner with an outrageous eight yards per carry! Granted they have only ran the ball a total of three times between them, but still, it is not a great sign when your quaterback and a wide receiver are leading the team in yards per carry.
Next, to Miller, Terrell Pryor is the next highest rusher on the team with 22 yards on 7 carries. However, he was sacked 3 times for a minus 28 yards so that defeats the purpose of our argument in this department.
All is not a lost cause though, as certain factors also have to be considered in for all of the lacklustre performance with the running game. And to be fair, all the blame cannot be placed solely upon the running backs.
Offensive coordinator, Greg Knapp, is instituting his zone blocking scheme this year and the offensive line has struggled in mastering this new scheme. Also, the play calling has been so vanilla that I have expected to see Bob Van Winkle. (a.k.a. Vanilla Ice) holding the play-sheet on the sideline.
Also, the poor performance of the Raider wide-outs, (excluding Rod Streater, of course) has made it even more difficult to get any momentum going and instead, has given backup punter, Marquette King, plenty of chances to show he deserves a shot in the NFL. Although with pro-bowler, Shane Lechler expected to be good to go any day now, King will likely get that shot with some other team.
Still, with the Raiders, it is vital that the backup running backs get their act together and begin showing who wants to be McFadden’s relief and a dependable number two running back.
We are not to the point where it is time to throw anyone under the bus, but it is time for players like Jones and Goodson to start proving the faith placed in them by head coach Denis Allen, was indeed warranted.
With both players having struggled with injuries in training camp and Goodson’s poor performance last week, there does seem to be a good cause for the rabid Raider fan base to be a wee bit worried.
What may be the even bigger problem is the offensive line’s inability to execute the zone blocking scheme effectively to this point. Together, these problems must be addressed by the coaches and the players need to show vast improvement over the next couple of weeks or opening night may be a long one for the rookie head coach and New Era Raiders.
The good news is coach Allen has announced that the team is shifting routines this week to simulate more of a regular season atmosphere. Levi Damien reports that Allen also looks to open the playbook a little more than in the first weeks in order to help the players get a head start on actually preparing for a specific opponent and the workload that is expected week in and week out during the season.
This change of pace may be the spark the offense needs to get things rolling.
As stated earlier, the play-calling was lacklustre in the first two games. This may well be because the coaches were busier with evaluating talent rather than doing their regular job of attacking a specific type of defense. This explanation seems most likely the best way to answer the questions for some of the horrific play Raider Nation has been shocked to see thus far from the offense.
Raider Nation knows we have one of the best running attacks in the league and it is crucial that this aspect of the game fires on all cylinders come opening day, as the passing attack needs the help that our dominant running threat poses for defenders.
Play-action is the bread and butter of this team’s offensive game-plan and a solid number two running back has to be able to draw the attention of the defense, just like McFadden, in order for the team to have success this year with both phases of the offense.
With the team preparing specifically for the Detroit Lion’s aggressive front four this week, we should see plenty of plays that emphasize the run and play-action passing aspects of our offense. In fact, this dress rehearsal may very well be the game that shows us who will earn the number two spot at running back and therefore, will warrant extra attention from the coaching staff and fans alike.
It's a good thing all the running backs are expected to play as jobs are on the line at this point.
All of this talk reminds me of one of the most inspirational sayings ever given to a team needing to pick it up offensively, and it would not be a bad idea if our coaches were to invoke these words this week.
It comes from a serious moment amidst all of the drama in a little movie called American Pie. It is a lesson that translates well to our offense right now and as a matter of fact, for the season to come.
That saying goes:” I don’t want any of you boys thinking you’re gonna score, you don’t score until you score!” YOU DON’T SCORE UNTIL YOU SCORE! Steve Stiffler is a genius!
It is this attitude that we need to see this week or the Raiders may need to consider bringing in another running back the likes of free-agent, Ryan Grant, to shore up the backup position and provide a threat that can give McFadden some relief during the course of a game.
Darren McFadden is reported in another article by Levi Damien, as to be used as an every down back by the Raiders and the article goes on to quote Knapp as saying about DMC that the difference between 08 and now is:
"His ability to see the hole is exciting. I've seen the growth in his vision in the run game. Where he identifies ‘ok, here's my chance to do the one cut down hill or one cut bounce move.' That part's been exciting as well as his blitz pickups; He's got a better understanding of seeing the safety rotation and identifying blitzes and that's made him a more well-rounded running back so we can play him on all downs."
That’s great that the OC is putting that much faith in our beast running back, but it is still imperative that a backup stand up and stand out so we can ensure DMC makes it a full season and is healthy for a playoff run. The Raiders’ hopes have always lied with him toting the rock and breaking the ankles and wills of opposing defenders, but even Knapp knows a reliable backup is a necessity in today’s NFL.
This week is the dress rehearsal for the starters, but with the definitive need of a number two guy at running back, look for a lot of rotation during the course of the game. If Miller outshines the other two again, one or both of them may be looking for work somewhere else before September 10th as the Raiders may choose to pick up someone from another team that didn’t make the squad but can be reliable and stay healthy.
This provides a lot of fuel for Goodson and Jones to step up and perform well.
It also means the game against Detroit should be one watched closely by all of Raider Nation as there is much to be determined for our running game this week that has heavy implications for the season as well.
So, give us here at RNT some feedback and let us know who you think will be the definitive number two guy behind DMC and it sure would feel good to get off the snide and Just Win Baby! I know its preseason, but still, a win against the Lions would feel good wouldn’t it?
Like Raider Nation Times
How Would You Grade the Raiders Live Mock Draft?