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News » Oakland Raiders Inside Slant 2008-10-30

Oakland Raiders Inside Slant 2008-10-30

Oakland Raiders Inside Slant 2008-10-30
Seven games into his first season, one of the most celebrated rookie players in Raiders history has had more protective boots (two) than touchdowns (one).

When Darren McFadden made his way to practice Wednesday morning, he was wearing a boot on his left foot.

Since Week 2, every other time McFadden missed practice the boot was on his right foot, immobilizing a case of turf toe suffered in Week 2 against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Not coincidentally, that happened to be the game where McFadden led a 300-yard Raiders rushing attack with 164 yards on 21 carries in a 23-8 Raiders win.

Along with a 24-23 loss to Buffalo, the 23 points stands as the most points Oakland has scored this season.

It turns out that McFadden injured his left toe on a checkdown route against the New York Jets, and now had two sore toes -- with the new injury worse than the gradually healing older one.

He was inactive for the first time this year in a 29-10 loss Sunday to the Baltimore Ravens.

"We went through the walkthrough, we felt like it was fine and ready to go," Cable said. "Then he woke up this morning with a lot of soreness and stiffness and it was just a decision ... if he did play, he was going to worsen the injury."

With McFadden not in uniform, the Raiders hit their low point of the season in terms of rushing yardage with 47 yards on 19 carries, with 13 of those coming off a scramble by rookie quarterback JaMarcus Russell.

It was Oakland's lowest rushing output since gaining 43 yards on 24 carries in San Diego on Oct. 14, 2007. The Raiders went on to finish sixth in the NFL in rushing and were counting on being one of the NFL's top rushing teams this season.

Running the ball would enable them to alleviate pressure on Russell, essentially a rookie after playing very little last season following a contract impasse.

The Raiders had Justin Fargas, who gained, 1,009 yards last season despite not starting until the seventh game of the season and missing the last two with a knee sprain. They had Michael Bush, a fourth-round draft pick the year before who had fully rehabbed a broken leg which ended his final season at Louisville in the season opener. Bush was considered one of the top collegiate runners at the time of his injury.

But the real explosion was to be added by McFadden, who along with Herschel Walker are the only running backs in Southeastern Conference history to gain more than 1,000 yards in three straight years. McFadden had 1,113 yards, 1,647 and 1,830 yards rushing, and in 38 games scored 41 touchdowns.

McFadden averaged 5.9 yards per carry, had electrifying speed and also the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.

Although Fargas was penciled in as the starter, the Raiders had big plans for McFadden as a runner/receiver.

Ideally, he would run as a tailback, catch passes out of the backfield and be split wide on occasion. He could also operate as a quarterback in a shotgun formation called the "Wildcat" that former coach Lane Kiffin began experimenting with as soon as McFadden arrived for organized team activities.

After the holdout with Russell, the Raiders had McFadden signed on June 6 and he was the standout offensive player of training camp, wowing with his speed, all-around skill and enthusiasm for playing the sport and learning to do new things.

About the only knock on McFadden was relatively skinny legs, which some thought might make it difficult for him to break tackles and hold up over a season.

As it has turned out through seven games, McFadden's legs have been fine -- it's his feet that have been the problem. The entire Raiders offense has suffered for it. McFadden has considered the thought that his rookie season is slipping away.

"I have thought about it, just like, 'Man, this season, it's running away on me.' But, at the same time, I try not to think about it, I try to look forward to it, 'Hey, we still got nine games left,'" McFadden said. "So, there's always an upside to it."

The Raiders fell flat in the season opener against Denver, losing 41-14, but McFadden's 164 yards in Week 2 was highlight-reel stuff.

He leads the Raiders in rushing and is the fourth-leading rookie rusher in the NFL, with his numbers built largely off that one game. He has 341 yards on 67 carries, trailing Tennessee's Chris Johnson (626 yards), Chicago's Matt Forte' (515) and Houston's Steve Slaton (476).

As a receiver, an area where McFadden was supposed to really open things up for Russell, he has 10 catches for 93 yards. He has a single touchdown as the Raiders have scored just nine in seven games.

"You get a chance out there in Kansas City, you feel like, 'Hey, I can play in this league. I can run with the other guys,'" McFadden said. "Then you come back and you've been dealing with this for the last five or six weeks, it's something that, it just wears you down. At the same time, you have to keep pushing through it and try to block it out."

Coming off the bye week, McFadden had made enough progress that he wasn't wearing a protective boot and actually made it through a whole week of practice entering the New Orleans game. Cable conceded the offensive plans hadn't been the same with McFadden unavailable in his roles as a runner, receiver and occasional Wildcat quarterback.

"There's a whole plan for that, there's about half a playbook for that," Cable said. "When he's not there to do it, obviously you can't have it in, you can't do those things. Once he's healthy, you'll start to see what the plan was."

He has a single touchdown, scored against the Chiefs, and the Raiders have scored only nine touchdowns in seven games.

Cable said McFadden's original turf toe injury was not an issue.

Not so, according to McFadden.

"Well, right now it's not healed. I still feel stiff and things kind of tend to linger around for a while, but it's well enough to where I can go out there and push off of it," McFadden said.

SERIES HISTORY: 12th meeting, Raiders lead series 7-4. In last meeting, T.J. Duckett scored four touchdowns and Warrick Dunn had 103 yards rushing as the Falcons beat the Raiders 35-10 in Atlanta. The last time the Falcons were in Oakland, the Raiders prevailed 41-14 on Nov. 26, 2000 en route to their first division title in 10 years.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: October 30, 2008

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