Breaking Down Darren McFadden’s Early Struggles

Very few members of Raider Nation were excited when the Oakland Raiders re-hired offensive coordinator Greg Knapp. Knapp brought with him the zone-blocking scheme, which many fans blamed for the struggles of RB Darren McFadden in 2008 and 2009. McFadden excelled under offensive coordinator/head coach Hue Jackson’s more traditional man/drive/power-blocking scheme in 2010 and 2011.

With the return of the zone-blocking scheme, it was easy to point to other factors for McFadden's poor performance, such as injuries and a poor offensive line. The excuses made sense, but they are gone now; McFadden is healthy, and the offensive line is much better than the one Oakland put on the field in 2008.

McFadden simply is struggling to execute the zone-blocking scheme. The offensive line could execute its blocks better, but the running game is struggling because McFadden isn't being patient or finding the cutback lanes.

The good news is McFadden can get better. This isn't some physical incapacity to execute the scheme. It's mental. The more McFadden runs the ball, the more he will get comfortable with the scheme. After all, he’s carried the ball just 26 times in the first two games.

Struggling only means he's been inconsistent. McFadden has been good about identifying where he needs to be running when the blocking is great, just not when it is marginal. The zone-blocking scheme is one of options for the running back, but once the running back settles on an option, he must commit to it. It's the "one cut and go" system. 


Example No. 1

McFadden has three options. Notice the edge is set by the defense on the right, and Derek Hagan (No. 10) can't get a block on the defensive end.

McFadden makes the correct cut and has room to run. Unfortunately, the defensive end Hagan can't block is able to tackle McFadden after a short gain. If Hagan even slow...

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