It has been awhile since the bulk of Raider Nation has had faith in what Darren McFadden was able to do on the field. There are legitimate reasons to have lost trust in McFadden, he hasn't played well the last couple years and he has never stayed healthy. He is being given the chance to change all of that.
There has never been less pressure on Darren as a Raider, and in fact he probably hasn't had less pressure on him since all the way back to his high-school days. The Raiders have brought in a known (though aging) star in Maurice Jones-Drew as his competition this year so they are not going into the season with the plan to rely on DMC as the workhorse. Plus he is on a discount incentive laden contract so he no longer has a giant rookie contract to live up to either.
Though the Raiders had Rashad Jennings last year who carried the load for the second half of the season, they hadn't gone into the season with the plan to use Rashad that often. There is no doubt that the Raiders plan to run Maurice Jones-Drew heavily this year though. That means that now DMC has to come in with an entirely new mentality this off-season, he is no longer the guaranteed feature back.
Watching McFadden hold his head high always even through these tough years makes me believe this situation could create a perfect storm for him. He needs some sort of change to bring him out of his funk. Maybe having to truly compete for a starting job through the off-season will be just the ticket.
The thing is he really just doesn't have anything to lose this year. He couldn't be much less productive than he was last season and now he isn't battling the pressure of meeting his big time contract. He doesn't have to be the bell cow if he can't perform at his highest level because of MJD being there and the entire offense doesn't have to change if he is unable to play.
Now it is just him on the field again, trying to prove himself. He gets to get back to just playing football finally. That type of freedom has the chance to turn things around for Darren. He showed us once what he was capable of and it was extraordinary. That Run DMC hasn't been around for awhile, but this could end up being the year we finally get to see him play like that once again.
It would be really wonderful to see that it was just a hiatus and the pro bowl quality player is still inside him, but it is also prudent to acknowledge that we may have just seen a flash in the pan whose fire has already burned out. It will be interesting to see if having MJD as his competition will help him or not. Whatever happens with it, DMC gets one more chance with the Raiders to prove that he still has star potential. The best part is that this time the Raiders are not all in counting on him if doesn't play well.