Everyone knows Oakland had a top-notch running game due to the zone-blocking system where my grandma could have a 1000 yard season. There was a solid stable of RB on roster. The Raiders managed to finish the 6th best rushing attack in the league and you can expect to see them finish in the top-5. The running backs have been upgraded, and more than you think. Let's breakdown the current roster:
1. Justin Fargas- Trust me, Fargas will be the starter, and if not him, it'll be Michael Bush. McFadden isn't starter quality (more on this later). Fargas busts through the hole with rockets on his feet. He's one of the fastest RB in the league. His problems are injury and receiving ability (which I don't think have been fairly tested). I expect Fargas to be injured once again, but not before getting at or around 1000 yards. Grade: B+
2. Michael Bush- Bush has been reported as a big physical back who's faster than you may think. Kiffin says he can also catch the ball well out of the backfield. I look for him to be bowling over LB on short-yardage situations. I also think you can see Bush split a little less than half the carries with Fargas. He's a strong counterpart to Fargas and looks like he could have a miniature Taylor/Jones-Drew tandem. I like Bush and think in the future, he'll be the Raider's official back. Grade: B
3. Darren McFadden- Now then, I'll explain why McFadden's not starting quality. McFadden is not a very strong back. He'll be repeatedly taken down on the first hit while Fargas has a few moves to avoid tackles and more strength. Now then for McFadden's plans for this year. I expect Bush and Fargas to bust up the defense while McFadden gets off some huge run on a sluggish defense. He can also be used in goal-line situations for big outside runs. He can also play WR for mismatches when the D least expects it. Expect McFadden and Bush to have the majority of Oakland's rushing touchdowns. Grade: B
I expect Jordan to be gone because of his attitude and ability. He's just not what he was in his 1000 yard 05 season. Louis Rankin might become another addition to the roster.
Now for the fullbacks. Technically, these are running backs, and a separate section on them is kinda lame and pointless. Oakland has two talented fullbacks, both very underrated in my eyes.
1. Justin Griffith- One of, if not the, best receiving fullbacks in the league. While he didn't contribute much to the running game in 07, he did make a few key receptions and blocks. With Russell manning the QB spot, you can expect Griffith to catch even more passes for even more yards. I wouldn't expect him to be used for much rushing (maybe short-yardage, I don't know) Justin is great-natured player with a lot of talent. Grade: A-
2. Oren O' Neal- I don't care who you are, O' Neal isn't commonly mentioned in the list of great fullbacks in this league, but I think he was one of last year's shining rookies. O' Neal is an outstanding blocker who always gives his all on every play. While his stats show zero rushing attempts, he was one of our biggest contributors to the running game. What I like is that he doesn't mind being an under the radar kind of guy. Don't look for Hall of Fame stats from him, but expect Hall of Fame blocks. More on O' Neal:
Now, what do I expect to happen in the ways of FB deals, Matt Hahn will probably be around longer than most of you think. He's reported as being a good running fullback with average receiving ability. I doubt he'll make final cut, but instead add competition for Griffith as he had little last year.
Overall Grade (RB and FB): A+