One is a homegrown hero who found success in Jacksonville. The other a highly touted draft pick of the Oakland Raiders, who setbacks and injuries have concealed his immense talent.
Two running backs, two very different stories, but both now looking for redemption in Oakland.
Can Maurice Jones- Drew prove he still has plenty of gas in the tank, and defy age and injuries? Can Darren McFadden re-pay the Oakland Raiders after 6 years of failed expectations?
2014 is a pivotal year for both. They can create a dynamic duo and anchor a resurgent running game, or fall flat and prove it is time to move on and move forward with young, hungry players in a deep running back group.
Dynamic Duo….On Paper
The matchup nightmare that a healthy MJD and DMC would bring to opposing defenses would be incredible.
Two strong, bulldozing running backs, each with the ability to hit the home run and take it to the house on any given play.
Jones-Drew once compared to a “Bowling Ball of Butcher Knives” is a dynamic runner when healthy. He brings toughness and great agility to any backfield. Jones-Drew uses his small stature (5’8) and lower body thickness to beat off arm tackles and punish would be tacklers. MJD is a bowling bowl out of the backfield, with enough quickness to out run defenders as well.
Run-DMC has underrated toughness in my opinion. I’ve seen McFadden smash defenders, leaving them looking for a medic. But what separates McFadden is his elite burst and ability to fly by defenders in the open field. McFadden is incredible when he can get past the DLine and get to the second-level of the defense.
Both MJD and DMC are great in pass protection, and can be deadly out of the backfield on pass plays. Both have great hands and can be a QB’s best friend when picking up the blitz.
On paper the Raiders have one of the best running back tandems in the NFL.
Reality Bites….Beware the Injury Bug
The Raiders would be best playing a downhill, ball control offense, predicated on the play-action pass, and maximizing the talents of their huge offensive line.
This could become a “Beat you up” type offense. Get a lead early, play stout defense, and keep feeding McFadden and Jones-Drew until the Defense waves the white flag.
Sounds great, but hard to do if MJD and DMC are watching from the sidelines. Can they stay healthy in 2014? And furthermore can they be effective? History and statistics would say no.
The running back position is one of the most brutal in the NFL. An almost guaranteed collision on every play, whether running the ball, catching the ball, or in pass protection. Running backs wear down fast.
McFadden’s injury history is well documented robbing him of any consistency, and has hindered a promising career. Hamstrings, Lisfranc, toe, and ankle, all lower body injuries that have plagued McFadden’s career with the Raiders.
What about Jones-Drew…MJD missed half of the 2012 season due to an injured foot, and has battled minor lower body injuries over the past 4 seasons. While Jones-Drew has proven to be effective playing injured, age never helps a running back. The 29-year-old will face an uphill battle, and would defy the current landscape of the NFL if he can have a bounce back year.
ESPN National Writer Kevin Seifert, provided a graph highlighting the rapid decline of running backs after the age of 27.
“Keep in mind that age 27 is the essential point where most players, under the current collective bargaining agreement, become free agents for the first time. At their first opportunity for a payday, the league already views them to be beyond their prime.” ESPN National Writer Kevin Seifert
Ahhhh the Memories….
I thought I end this article on a positive note, and show why Raider Nation should be excited to have both Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden wearing the Silver and Black.
The first video is MJD laying out Shawn Merriman while playing against the Chargers.
The Second is my favorite Darren McFadden TD run. It is literally Madden come to life, hit stick, spin move, juke move, stiff arm, TouchDown Raiders!
Reggie McKenzie and the Raiders opted out of drafting a young running back in the 2014 draft, and chose instead to put this running game in the hands of two veteran running backs with some question marks. DMC and MJD could re-emerge to an elite level, or 2014 could just be a final chapter for both in Oakland.