Darren McFadden rushed for 73 yards from 24 carries last week. While he only averaged 3.0 yards a carry against a Pittsburgh Steelers defense that is currently ranked 27th in rushing yards allowed, punching in two touchdowns while in the red zone more than make up for it. Now McFadden and the Oakland Raiders face the Philadelphia Eagles whose defense is ranked 8th in rushing yards allowed.
During Philadelphia’s last two games against the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants, the opponent’s leading rushers were held to 65 and 70 yards respectively and neither scored a touchdown. The Eagles defense, however, are ranked 31st in passing yards allowed. Opposing running backs were productive in the passing game in four of the past six games, the biggest being Jamaal Charles’ 80 receiving yards in addition to his 92 rushing yards when the Eagles played the Kansas City Chiefs during Week 3.
While getting starting center Stefen Wisniewski back is a godsend for a beat-up Raiders offensive line, McFadden still struggled running down middle last week. Against Philadelphia’s stout run defense, it is not likely McFadden will accumulate 100 yards rushing. It is possible, however, for him to contribute largely to the passing game as he is most effective in space. Opposing defenses probably have figured out by now that the Raiders offense slows down when Terrelle Pryor is ineffective in the pocket. Also, the Raiders coaches cannot continue to bank on his athleticism. Though he can be dazzling at times when scrambling, Pryor is still not consistent enough to convince his coaches to just let him loose. If the Eagles try to get at Pryor in the backfield early and often, getting the ball out of his hands quickly with screen plays and short passes to McFadden could be the remedy to offset Philadelphia’s pass rush.
Whatever the case may be, the team knows how important this opportunity to get back to 0.500 is. It is the second of a favorable five-game stretch in the Raiders schedule. The Eagles come into Oakland riding a two-game losing streak and is without starting quarterback Michael Vick. If Oakland’s defense gives enough opportunities to the offense, it could be an opportune time for McFadden to show off his versatility catching the ball if the offensive line cannot create holes for him to run through.
Statistics compiled from ESPN.com.