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Darren McFadden says he is good fit for zone blocking scheme, reality says otherwise

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Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden (20) runs against the Miami Dolphins defense during the first quarter at Sun Life Stadium.
Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden (20) runs against the Miami Dolphins defense during the first quarter at Sun Life Stadium.

After two games this season, Raiders' running back Darren McFadden is averaging two yards per carry. He had just 32 yards on 15 carries in the opener and had 22 yards on 11 carries Sunday against the Dolphins.

After the game, Darren McFadden says he still believes he is a good fit for the zone blocking scheme. That is what he is expected to say, of course. He has to play with the hand he is dealt. But there is no evidence to would give him any reason to truly believe that.

Coming into the season, there were questions about whether he would be a good fit for the zone blocking scheme. He looked fantastic last season before he went down injured. That was with the Raiders using the power blocking scheme.

Many people thought McFadden would be a perfect fit for the system. They looked back at the 2010 season under then head coach Tom Cable, a zone blocking specialist, as proof. But that season, Cable was not running strictly the zone. In fact, he was running primarily the power blocking scheme. The result was McFadden running for 1157 yards in 13 games.

To see how McFadden performs in the zone, one must go back to 2009. That was the last time the Raiders were a true zone blocking team. It was Cable's first full season as head coach. That season McFadden played in 12 games, averaging 3.4 yards per carry and didn't go over 100 yards rushing one time. He also only had one touchdown.

The season before that, was his 2008 rookie campaign. Greg Knapp was the offensive coordinator that season. McFadden played in 13 games that season and only went over 100 yards rushing once-his second game as a pro. In fact, that was the only time that season McFadden even went over 50 yards rushing in a game. The team opted instead to feature Justin Fargas who ran for 853 yards on the season.

That is a lot of history which shows that McFadden isn't suited for a zone blocking scheme.

What Hue Jackson did as offensive coordinator in 2010 and head coach in 2011 is put in plays designed to feature McFadden's strengths. He asked McFadden what kinds of plays he feels most comfortable. It worked like a charm and the Raiders offense functioned at a competitive level the past two seasons.

That idea seems to have been abandoned. Sure, they get the ball to McFadden in the passing game and he does well. But everyone knows you can't win football games if you can't run the ball. McFadden is supposed to be this team's every down back. No team can win with their every down, feature back gaining 2 yards per carry on the ground.

Some might say it is the offensive line that was the issue. Even center Stefen Wisniewski tried shouldering the blame for the run woes. There is room for that argument. Although it doesn't explain the past history of zone blocking issues for McFadden.

Some might say that it was the Dolphins' stout rush defense that was the reason for McFadden's bad day. Ok, the Dolphins did hold Arian Foster to 3.0 yards per carry last week. Then again, he also scored two touchdowns-one was a short run which brought his average down. And that still doesn't explain DMac's 2.1 yards per carry in the opener against a mediocre Chargers run defense.

There is no easy way around this. The Raiders need to figure something out right now to get McFadden on track in the run game.

What do you think is the answer?