Darren McFadden finds himself in a difficult position. He is on the brink of being a bust. He still possesses extreme talent, but will be competing for the lead back roll with Michael Bush.
While McFadden’s sidekick at Arkansas, Felix Jones, is finding success in Dallas, McFadden has struggled staying healthy and with effectiveness.
The concern about McFadden coming out was that his legs went dead on contact and fumbling, and he has done little to change that in his two seasons with the Raiders.
Far more concerning is McFadden looks for contact. With durability concerns, tremendous speed, trouble with ball security and legs that go dead on contact, he should probably attempt to avoid some of the pounding and attempt to outrun linebackers to the corner.
Michael Bush has a different problem to overcome. When given consistent work, he has proven he can carry the load averaging 4.6 yards per carry. The problem has been consistent work.
However, consistent work isn’t the fault of coaches unwilling to call his name. The coaches have called it often, when Bush gets going, contributing to three 100 yard days in two seasons as the team’s third back.
The problem is Bush too often looks like he is running in sand. Slow to hit the hole, even compared to Justin Fargas. It has been rumored that Bush will take himself out of the game to get a breather. This could be an indicator of poor conditioning, poor stamina, or lack of desire.
Whatever the case may be, Bush finds himself in a great position. Fargas is gone, the fans are behind him, and he fits the mold of an every down back more than McFadden.
The Raiders have had no aversion to announcing more than 11 starters on offense and I expect that trend to continue. It is extremely possible Bush, McFadden, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Louis Murphy and Chaz Schilens are announced as starters when week one rolls around.
Until then we are left to speculate. The title of ‘starter’ aside, it is really more important how the players are used than who is the starter and both should play a significant role.
Thus far, McFadden has been grossly misused. Runs between the tackles should be a surprise to the defense when McFadden is handed the ball, just to keep the defense on its toes. This hasn’t been the case so far.
McFadden also hasn’t been used enough as a receiver. Screens, pitch plays and dump-offs can be especially useful with a guy like McFadden. Using his speed and getting him in the open field will be the goal of Hue Jackson.
Let Bush and his big body abuse and tire out the linebackers and save McFadden the abuse. Bush needs to play a little meaner for his size. McFadden seems to dole out punishment harder than Bush, who has 20 pounds on him.
McFadden and Bush can perfectly complement each other, much like Barber and Jones and Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw.
For this two back system to work, both Bush and McFadden will need to elevate their level of play. Bush needs to improve his consistency, run with more of a mean streak and McFadden the opposite, he needs to try and use his speed and elusiveness before inducing contact from a defender.
Don’t worry about who the starter is. Worry about how the two players are being utilized to best suit their talents.