Darren McFadden was supposed to be a dominant force for the Oakland Raiders this season. The only thing that could have possibly stood in the way was his health. After a 2011 season where he showed the ability to be the best running back in the NFL until he suffered a lisfranc injury that ended his season, everyone believed that if he could just stay healthy, nothing could stand in his way. That was the belief held by many but it is now being challenged by what appears to be an even bigger foe to Darren McFadden than injuries, the zone blocking scheme.
Two games into the season and the once formidable Darren McFadden has been an absolute non factor in the running game. With two games under his belt, a healthy McFadden has only amassed 54 yards and averaged a paultry 2.1 yards per carry. Not exactly the kind of statistics that put fear into the hearts of opposing defenses. But if McFadden is healthy, what is the problem? There are two potential answers to that question, and one of them is not what Raiders fans want to hear.
McFadden's inability to find success early this season must be tied to the zone blocking scheme. He is fit and in the pre-season showed he still has his speed and cutting abilities that made him great in 2011. So, either the Raiders are not yet used to the scheme, in which case, McFadden's season can still be salvaged, or the Raiders do not have the right personnel for the scheme, in which case, the Raiders run game may never shape up with McFadden in the back field.
This week will be an interesting test for the Raiders. It will be their third week in the new system and the second week that center Stefen Wisniewski will be back in the starting lineup. The presence of Young Wiz and the experience of two games should help the Raiders get closer to their goal of figuring out the new blocking scheme. On the down side, the Raiders are going up against a Steelers team with a solid run defense. Last year, the age of the Steelers defense would have made Raiders fans confident that McFadden would have a big day. This year, the age of the Steelers defense makes Raiders fans hope the Steelers will not shut down McFadden like the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers have already.