Greg Olson knows how to use his weapons at the running back position. His former teams had the likes of Maurice Jones-Drew, LaGarrette Blount, and Stephen Jackson. Now he has two weapons in Oakland in the form of Darren McFadden and Marcel Reece and he intends to utilize both of them to their fullest.
Olson realizes McFadden and Reece are premium weapons who had both been used improperly last season and the Raiders offense stagnated because of it. He intends to change that.
"Marcel Reece is a different kind of a fullback, so what does he do well and how can we get him involved in some of the matchups that will create problems for defenses?" Olson told reporters Wednesday. "Darren McFadden... is a downhill runner. So we'll get back to some of the gap scheme and the things he does well."
McFadden is the feature back in this offense and therefore getting him back to the form that had him rush for 1157 yards in 2010 and average 5.4 yards per carry in 2011 is job one.
"Based on the 11 players that were predominant starters last year and knowing the type of tailback and type of quarterback if you're talking about Carson Palmer as the starter and Darren McFadden as your tailback. To me, Carson is a pocket passer. So you're looking at heavy play action, push the ball down the field that way and you're looking at tailoring some of the gap scheme stuff for Darren McFadden where he's able to hit the ball going downhill. Those two go hand in hand, the downhill gap scheme and the hard sell play action to me fit those players if those are the players we're looking at."
But while getting McFadden going is crucial, it is clear he is most excited about the dynamic possibilities Marcel Reece brings to the offense. He just positively beams about Reece as a versatile offensive weapon.
"He's got such a unique set of skills for a fullback. He's a college wide receiver. He'll present some matchup issues. I was pleasantly surprised in watching the tape to see that in a lot of the downhill lead plays where you need a fullback to go in there... I was excited about that to be honest with you. Also, again to see him get out of the backfield and to spread out in some of the one-back sets and empty sets and look at the matchups you can get with him was exciting as well. He does have tremendous speed. He has very good hands. He has loose hips. He can run some of those option, choice routes that are matchup nightmares for defensive players."
Another area Reece was underutilized last season was as a third down, short yardage back. Knapp miscast McFadden in that role and the offense stalled constantly because of it. That is a role Reece should be playing and Olson intends to use him that way.
"It's nice to know especially from a quarterback standpoint to have somebody who is built like he's built and is also intelligent enough to be that third-down back who understands the blitz packages that other teams are doing and to have tremendous hands coming out of the backfield. I was really pleasantly surprised in that part of the game that he could go in and be a third-down back. Not just a plug-in type guy but not only did he do it but he did it well. I was excited to see that."
So, it would appear the Raiders running game should receive a much needed jolt under Olson. His track record as an offensive coordinator suggests he is not blowing smoke with regard to how he plans to use McFadden and Reece.