Dec 23, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden (20) runs the ball against the Carolina Panthers during the third quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Panthers defeated the Raiders 17-6. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Has Darren McFadden Peaked?

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It might sound crazy to pose this question but you can bet your season tickets in Mount Davis that it’s being discussed amongst the Raiders brass.

He might be just 25-years-old and yet to play a full NFL season after five years in the league but one has to wonder if we’ve seen the best of Darren McFadden.

As a rule NFL running backs, unlike juiced up sluggers in MLB or matured players in the NBA, don’t get better with age. Their bodies worn down by punishing contact over the years most runners are lucky to leave the pro game on their own terms. The majority are either forced out by injury or lack of work.

So given McFadden’s many health issues before the age of 28 you can’t help but feel as if his days are numbered as far as being a feature back.

After 2013 the crossroads will have officially been reached by McFadden and the Raiders as his first NFL contract is set to expire. Just where he stands in Oakland’s plans remains to be seen. Already a regime change followed by the foolish re-instillation of a failed scheme has cheated Run-DMC out of a full year in his supposed prime. Of course another bite from the injury bug also sabotaged his 2012.

In 2011 McFadden was looking every bit the player Al Davis envisioned when he took the former Arkansas Razorback 4th overall in the 2008 draft. Before that infamous lisfranc injury ended his season McFadden was the league’s leading rusher looking like a potential MVP candidate as he ran the Raiders back into football relevancy.

Certainly the scheme played the biggest role in reducing McFadden’s production in 2012 but he didn’t look nearly as explosive either. Three times McFadden broke the 100-yard barrier last season and two of those (both against the Kansas City Chiefs) required a combined 59 carries.

That he could carry the rock that many times speaks to his durability and toughness when his body is willing. However under no circumstances should a player with his skill set need 30+ touches to notch 100 yards rushing.

Even more troubling is that if you take away McFadden’s longest run of the year, a 64-yard TD scamper against the Steelers, then he would have averaged under 3 yards a carry for the season.

Again, Greg Knapp’s zone scheme combined with his mind-numbing play calling are the biggest culprits. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for concern surrounding McFadden’s future. We’ll likely never see him play a full season which means we’ll almost certainly never see his peak…unless we already have.

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