During the 2011 NFL season, the Oakland Raiders appeared to be finally turning things around after acquiring quarterback Carson Palmer. The addition of Palmer was a huge boost for this team that was still recovering from the draft bust of JaMarcus Russell, but it was also the improved play of running back Darren McFadden that began to spark of hopes of ending the playoff drought in Oakland.
Right out of the gate, McFadden was turning heads around the league with 150 yards rushing on 22 carries against the Denver Broncos. McFadden appeared to be right back on track and ready to prove he was one of the best backs in the NFL.
The veteran running back followed up the Week 1 performance with an even more impressive showing the following week against the Buffalo Bills with 142 total yards and two touchdowns. Even though the Raiders lost that game, McFadden was starting to receive a lot of buzz for potentially being the season’s MVP and the Raiders go-to guy on offense.
McFadden ultimately rushed for 614 yards, four rushing touchdowns and one receiving before going down with a foot injury that would keep him out the rest of the season after Week 7.
As a result of McFadden’s season-ending injury, the up-and-coming back was considered injury prone once again and may never be able to stay healthy for the Raiders.
In 2012, McFadden did little to prove his worth to the team playing in 12 games, rushing for 704 yards while only scoring three touchdowns all season long. The once high expectations of McFadden began to fade along with the hopes of the Raiders franchise turning things around.
Despite a poor season and more injury problems, the team intends to stick by McFadden according to ESPN.com:
Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie remains committed to Darren McFadden despite a disappointing 2012 season and hopes a new offensive system helps the running back get his career back on track.
McKenzie spoke to beat reporters on Thursday for the first time since Nov. 30 and looked back at a disappointing first season in Oakland and ahead to the future. He said McFadden will be part of that future as McFadden enters the final year of his contract.
“I’m confident Darren’s going to play his last season,” McKenzie said. “Regardless of what’s out there, we have no decision to do anything with Darren.”
Although McKenzie appears adamant about keeping McFadden in Oakland for the long-term, that stance will almost certainly change if the Arkansas product can’t find a way to bounce back next season.
When healthy, McFadden is amongst the best running back in the NFL without question. The problem is that McFadden simply can’t stay healthy with his style of running the football and injuries will continue to be a problem moving forward if he can’t adjust or finds a way to remain healthy and productive for an entire season.