Raiders running backs are the expendables

Cary Emondson-US PRESSWIRE

Two weeks ago the Raiders lost their top two running backs to high ankle sprains. But Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson are not the key to the Raiders run game.

The Raiders lack of a run game has been harped on all season and it is one of the main reasons the Raiders sit where they do today-at 3-6. They have almost no run game to speak of. The two games in which the Raiders had a back over 100 yards, they won. That was when Darren McFadden had 113 yards against the Steelers and 114 yards against the Chiefs. The only other win they had, required overtime to put away the Jaguars who are one of the worst teams in football.

There is no excuse at this point. Even McFadden and Mike Goodson both being injured is not an excuse. Marcel Reece performed better last week than McFadden had in most games this season. He churned out 72 yards on 3.9 yards per carry while McFadden was averaging less than three yards per carry.

Goodson may be out but Taiwan Jones should be able to step in and perform. The problem is the coaches have not trusted him enough to give him the ball. Last week they gave practice squad call up Jeremy Stewart carries before Jones touched the ball. Not good for a guy who was in a battle in camp for the primary backup job with Goodson.

We have seen this before in a zone scheme. No name running backs who are suddenly superstars because they have the instincts necessary to have success in the scheme. Mike Shanahan in Denver and now in Washington has always gone through running backs like the ultimate in expendable players. Just plug and play.

The coaches have also said they will be tailoring the blocking scheme to fit the situation and hopefully to fit the strengths of the runner. They face some pretty porous defenses from here on out so there is a chance they could get the run game figured out. The offensive line has certainly had plenty of practice by now.

A residual effect to success running the ball is controlling the clock. Only in quick strike offenses can teams win while losing the battle in time of possession. The Raiders are a grind it out, short yardage, west coast offense. Palmer passes far too much in this offense and we have seen that it doesn't work consistently enough to sustain long drives.

In most cases, time of possession is good to give the defense rest. But in a case like the Saints, it is more important to give their offense less opportunities. The Ravens last week scored nearly every time they touched the ball. The Saints are the most high-powered offense in the NFL. There is no measure to how important it is to give Drew Brees' as few chances to launch an attack on the Raiders as possible.

The only other offense which compares is the Broncos with Peyton Manning behind center. The Broncos are the only team to beat the Saints in the last five games. And it was not even close. A 34-14 shellacking.

All other teams the Raiders face are beatable. But that won't matter much if they have no ground game. The Raiders can't continue to be one dimensional and expect to win any games.

The offensive line and coaching staff are the key to the run game getting on track. Otherwise it will be another game with big yards for Palmer, a couple touchdowns, and a loss.

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