When the Raiders drafted Darren McFadden with the fourth overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, they envisioned the second coming of Bo Jackson. With lightning quick speed and nimble feet, the two-time Heisman Trophy finalist for Arkansas Razorbacks had a bright future ahead of him. However, injuries and an inability to hold onto the football have plagued him since he entered the league.
At only 26-years-old, McFadden has plenty of time to turn his less-than-stellar career into something worthwhile, but will admit the upcoming season is critical. Staying healthy should be McFadden's top priority, and the arrival of Maurice Jones-Drew should help spell some of the weight from his shoulders.
Jones-Drew, a native of Antioch, California, and former UCLA Bruin, spent the first eight years of his career with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but returned home when the Raiders offered him a three-year deal in the offseason.
Both running backs enter the season with something to prove, as McFadden missed six games due to various injuries, and was surprisingly retained on a one-year deal, while Jones-Drew hopes to rebound from a foot injury that lead to his career-low 3.3 yards per carry average.
The duo spoke with reporters on Thursday, telling Silver & Black Pride's own Levi Damien that they're not thinking about last season, instead focusing on how to improve moving forward.
"The past is behind me," said McFadden. "The only place I can go is up. I'm just looking forward to building our relationship together and helping the team be the best."
"We feel like we have have something that we can build on," said Jones-Drew, echoing McFadden's sentiments. "I know what I did last year wasn't nowhere near what I'm capable of doing, so this year I'm doing everything I can to get back to the form I'm used to."
When healthy, McFadden and Jones-Drew can be among the most electrifying players in the league, but they know there are skeptics based on the fact that they have not met expectations the past few seasons.
"Everybody can say what they want, but whoever said it, stick to that," said Jones-Drew. "Don't be the same guy (down the road) saying, 'Oh, we knew they could do it.'"
The tandem's success likely hinges on how well they work together, and although they've both been their respective team's clear-cut starter in the past, they're willing to put their egos aside for the betterment of the team. When asked about the possibility of a running back-by-committee role, they were refreshingly honest.
"Everyone wants to be the guy," said Jones-Drew, "but I think that a running back-by-committee is going to help us because were going to be fighting every day to get the ball. I know he wants the ball like I do, and that drive is going to help us become a better backfield and try to be the best backfield in the league."
McFadden agreed, saying, "it's just all about what you do with the ball when you get the chance."
Intent on revitalizing their careers and reenergizing the dormant Raiders backfield, the pair will have plenty of chances to silence their doubters this coming season. Sharing the load should ease the wear-and-tear of a 16-game NFL season, and if they can stay healthy, expect McFadden, Jones-Drew, and the Raiders offense to perform at a high level once again.