Re-run DMC: Another Injury-Plagued Year for McFadden?
By Bess Shapiro
Granted, the 2013 season is only four weeks in, but the injuries to the Oakland Raiders just keep piling up. And it may be a replay of a familiar story at running back. After hurting a hamstring in the second quarter of last week’s loss to the Washington Redskins, Darren McFadden left the field and returned wearing street clothes. McFadden standing on the sidelines has become a familiar sight for Raiders fans. Even though McFadden rushed for 129 yards against Jacksonville and rushed for 29 against Washington, it seemed only a matter of time before injury would strike. Hamstring injuries generally aren’t season-ending, but considering McFadden’s history, it could be a portent of things to come.
McFadden didn’t practice on Wednesday, and Coach Dennis Allen would not say one way or the other whether the running back would play against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday. The general consensus is that McFadden will not play, if for no other reason than the Raiders need to keep him healthy enough to play most of the season.
McFadden, 26, has never been able to play for more than 13 games per season during his career. When he’s healthy, he’s exciting. In 2010, he rushed for 1,157 yards for 13 games, but that was his standout season. He has been plagued by injury before and after that season. And he’s not getting any younger. Last season, McFadden was out for four straight games with an ankle sprain, and fullback Marcel Reece carried much of the load.
McFadden is still a talented running back, but for a team in a rebuilding mode, it needs all its playmakers on offense to be healthy. The Raiders need to start grooming a healthy running back. Rookie Latavius Murray was expected to be McFadden’s backup, but he was injured early in the season and placed on injured reserve. Right now, the Raiders should give Rashad Jennings as many touches as possible. While he has been only in a backup role, he has averaged four yards per carry. When McFadden pulled his hamstring against Washington, Jennings took over and rushed for 45 yards, averaging 3.2 yards per carry. He has been effective as a receiver as well. This year he has 11 receptions for 88 yards, and Allen has liked his performance after he catches the ball.
There is also the speedy Jeremy Stewart. His snaps have been limited in the regular season, but in the preseason he showed some explosive running up the middle. The second-year man out of Stanford rushed for 343 yards and had two touchdowns his freshman year with the Cardinal. Over his junior and senior seasons in Palo Alto, he averaged more than five yards a carry and rushed for a total of 11 touchdowns. His star still has the potential to rise.
McFadden isn’t done, but he is fading. Discussions regarding a contract extension are brewing. The Raiders need to decide if he is still worth the money, or if it is time to look toward the future.