For a little over a week I had a poll question on this site asking whether Justin Fargas was the answer at running back or not. There were more votes against Fargas than for him. Last Sunday he ran for 146 yards, following a 139 yard performance against the Kansas City Chiefs, and yet the votes were still against Fargas. I love the energy he puts in every run, but I’m not sure whether he’s going to be able to stay healthy enough with his running style (much like soon-to-be rookie of the year Adrian Peterson, but I’ll get into that another day), so I’m still not ready to say he can lead this team. However, he might not have to lead the way.
A lot of fans and analysts believe that Head Coach Lane Kiffin wasted a chance to see Michael Bush this season (even I blew up on this site after I heard the news), only to prevent LaMont Jordan or Dominic Rhodes go to a rival like Denver or K.C. I think it’s one of the reasons Kiffin kept Bush off the field, but after some calm brainstorming, and watching what Fargas has been able to do the last couple weeks, something else came to mind.
Offensive line Coach Tom Cable has worked diligently all season to find the right mix of guys to start on his line, and the plays to fit their abilities. I think Kiffin has a scheme, and a group of plays that make him as confident with whomever is the ball carrier. In other words, I think Kiffin believes his running game now relies on ball-carriers who don’t fumble, run hard, and work hard, and not one elite set the pace RB. That is exactly who Justin Fargas is. Selvin Young of the Denver Broncos is also that kind of guy. He’s one of the smallest, slowest, and weakest running backs in the NFL, but he’s so fearless, and never hesitates. So I guess I’m not really worried about Fargas after all, because it really doesn’t matter who’s running the ball, as long as he’s got heart (ahem, Jordan and Rhodes).
There are so many guys in college football with so much love for the game it’s unbelievable that some of these guys aren’t drafted. How do you think the Broncos are able to put a new body at the running back position every year? They find guys with heart, and not the necessary skills needed to adjust to a man-to-man run blocking scheme. The Broncos first running back that I can remember them signing as a free agent to be their starter (Travis Henry) was their first failed experiment at the running back position in over 10 years. With the Broncos o-line dwindling in age and health, it’s time for the Raiders to be the face of zone-run blocking, and with Cable (learned under the godfather of zone-blocking, Alex Gibbs) leading the way, it should only be a matter of time.
Honorable Mention: Justin Griffith– His numbers don’t reflect how well he’s helped out this team. I’ve yet to see him get beat while blocking anyone, and he catches the ball better than any other RB/FB on the team. The Raiders seem to be trying to get him more involved (8 catches, 54 yards against Denver and Minnesota) but I think they need to use him more as a pass catcher than a pass blocker.