Darren McFadden #20 of the Oakland Raiders works out during the Raiders training camp
We started with the quarterback analyses and depth chart and how we move on to his backfield mates--- the runningbacks. Like most positions, teams load up on running backs in the off season to ensure there are plenty of fresh legs to last through each camp.
The Raiders will have their lead back, Darren McFadden back healthy (for now) after he missed ten games last season with a Lis Franc injury. He and Carson Palmer have never played together because McFadden got injured earlier in the same game Palmer played his first game for the Raiders. Like two ships passing in the night.
When McFadden got injured last season, he had Michael Bush to step in and carry the load. And Bush nearly got 1000 yards over those final ten games. Well, Bush is gone, leaving a gaping hole in the Raiders backfield to fill and it doesn't yet appear they have filled it. Also gone as a free agent is Rock Cartwright who was a reserve back and special teams ace.
The team signed reserve/future deals with Lonyae Miller and Rashawn Jackson and traded for Mike Goodson from the Panthers. Then they didn't draft a running back at all. This is one of those positions which could use at least one more back. Former Bengal Cedric Benson has said he is interested in joining the Raiders and Ryan Grant is also available in free agency but it remains to be seen if either will actually join the team. The salary cap situation is prohibitive as well.
Here is what the Raiders running back depth chart looks like as they head into mini camps:
1. Darren McFadden- When healthy, he is a top five back in the NFL. But "when healthy" is his issue. He is the starter but has never played an entire season due to injury.
2. Taiwan Jones- The second-year back will try to step up and fill the role of the Raiders number two back. And if McFadden goes down, he could be the starter. He has yet to prove he can carry the ball at all, let alone as a feature back.
3. Mike Goodson- He is penciled in here simply because the team traded for him. Granted it was a trash for trash (Bruce Campbell) situation, but the team is hoping Goodson was simply the odd man out in Carolina. He has decent size at 6-0, 210 but is not a bruiser like Bush.
4. Lonyae Miller- Miller may prove to be simply a camp body. Then again, in the zone blocking scheme, you never really know who might emerge. Miller may be the only running back on the team with the size necessary to fill Bush's shoes as a goal line and short yardage back. Or not. We just don't know.
5. Brandon Rutley- An undrafted free agent signing. He is a local product out of San Jose State. Rutley is the wildcard of the bunch. He has the potential to beat out Goodson and Miller and make the team. We will soon see what kind of player the Raiders have in this compact 5-10, 200 pound back.
1. Marcel Reece- He was a Pro Bowl alternate last season and deservedly so. Few players in the league are more of a consistent mismatch as their positions. He is too fast for a linebacker to cover and too big for a cornerback to tackle.
2. Manase Tonga- The backup plan. When Reece was out, Tonga was the Raiders' fullback. With the new coaching staff, they could decide to carry two fullbacks. In which case, Tonga would make the roster out of camp.
3. Rashawn Jackson- The backup backup plan. If Reece or Tonga go out, Jackson is the last resort.