How good were the Oakland Raiders running backs in 2007?

22 04 2008

How much did Fargas contribute to the running game?

Now with less than a week left until the NFL draft, there is going to be serious consideration for all of the top draft prospects. Darren McFadden has already met with the Raiders and many believe he will be drafted by the Silver and Black. One thing that could help determine whether or not he goes to Alameda is how effective or running backs were in 2007.

It should be noted that running back performance is directly related to how the offensive line performs. The folks at FootballOutsiders.com attempted to distinguish the performance of a running back from the performance of the offensive line. The following chart shows some offensive line advanced statistics for the 2007 season. In brief, Adjusted Line Yards separate the performance of the running back from the offensive line by assigning yard values contributed by the offensive line and not the running back. Also, Running back yards are the yards per carry by the team’s running backs. And the 10+ Yards % is the percentage of the team’s running yards that were 10 yards or greater, showing the amount of running plays unaffected by the offensive line. Find out about more Adjusted Line Yards and 10+ Yards % through these links.

Adjusted Line Yards Running Back Yards 10+ Yards %
Oakland Raiders 4.17 4.21 16%
NFL League Average 4.08 4.17 18%

We can deduce several things from this chart. The offensive line was responsible for most of the running backs success, due to the high adjusted line yards figure. Also, the 10+ Yards % was below league average, indicating that our running backs did not break huge runs and relied on the offensive line to do much of the blocking. However, the average yardage for our running back was above league average indicating that our running backs performed very well compared to the rest of the league. Our trio of running backs set the tone for the offense in 2007. In fact the Raiders were sixth in the league in average rushing yards per game. The running backs will only get better in 2008, especially if Michael Bush can emerge. The running backs did rely on the offensive line a lot in order to get their yards, but that does not indicate a lack of talent. It indicates the adeptness of the offensive line in the zone-blocking scheme to open up holes for the backs.

The interesting thing about our offensive line last year, is that is slightly above average in both in run blocking and in pass blocking. And, with Barry Sims gone, the line should look to get even better in 2008. Meanwhile, Robert Gallery has emerged as a mean run blocker at left guard. Our current stable of backs did very well in 2007 with an offensive line that can only get better. The line clearly showed an improvement with coach Tom Cable running the show. The front office also made some interesting signings during the off season such as offensive tackle Kwame Harris formerly of the 49ers. Many have dubbed him a draft bust, but who knows if he can rejuvenate his career in Oakland. There is still a big question at left tackle for the Raiders. If it is not addressed in the draft, then the possible starters will be either Mario Henderson or Kwame Harris.

A brief synopsis of the running backs in 2007:

Lamont Jordan

Lamont’s 2007 season was derailed by injuries. After starting out strong in the first two games of the season, Lamont injured his back and lost the starting job to Justin Fargas. However, with 144 carries he did get a decent amount of rushing attempts for the season. The Raiders will either restructure his contract to retain him for 2008 or will cut him to reduce the impact of his contract. Alternatively, the Raiders could trade him to a team looking for a starting running back for some picks in the NFL Draft.

Dominic Rhodes

Rhodes was suspended for the first four games of the 2007 season, which severely hampered his chances of winning the starting job. He did start the last two games against Jacksonville and San Diego and blew up for 337 yards combined against the two teams. He renegotiated his contract to reduce the financial hit it would make on the Raiders payroll. He seems content with his current situation and will likely challenge Justin Fargas for the starting role in the 2008 season.

Justin Fargas

Fargas started the season as a reserve but was promoted to starter with Lamont Jordan injured and Dominic Rhodes suspended. He showed that he belonged with several strong outings, especially in the two game win streak against Kansas City and Denver. He finished with over 1000 yards rushing for the season and will look to increase that number coming into 2008. He signed a three year extension in the offseason worth up to $14 millon. He looks to be the starter heading into the 2008 season.

Michael Bush

Bush was expected to play during the last half of the season but was kept on the Physically Unable to Perform list because the Raiders did not want to cut a running back and have him sign with a division rival such as Denver or Kansas City. The Raiders would definitely like to see how he performs in a game situation, but for now all he can do is wait till 2008.

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Who is Michael Bush?

16 04 2008

Do you know this man?

Many draft pundits are saying that the Raiders will draft Darren McFadden with the fourth overall pick, despite the amount of running backs they already have. They mention Justin Fargas, Lamont Jordan and Dominic Rhodes. However, they fail to mention possibly the most talented running back currently on the roster in Michael Bush.

The Raiders drafted Michael Bush with the first pick of the fourth round in the 2007 draft. He played extremely well while he attended Louisville and was among the top running backs in his graduating class. But, he was injured early in his senior season and did not play again. Highlight reels of his college exploits have shown up all over the internet and he is just as great a game-breaking talent as McFadden is projected to be. Check out these highlights to see how he plays. He could be the steal of the 2007 draft in a few years, once he is given time to play. He remained on the physically unable to perform list for the entire 2007 season and is projected to compete for playing time in training camp. He could be the breakout candidate for the 2008 NFL season (The donkeys are up first!).

Bush is a compact back, 6″1 and about 245 pounds. He runs very well between the tackles in order to gain yardage. He is an absolute workhorse whenever he runs through the middle because he knocks linebackers back with his momentum. However, he can also run outside of the tackles on screens very effectively and once he gets into open field, he has the strength to break a tackle or two. He seems to always gain yardage after contact by diving forward whenever his legs get tackled. He will absolutely thrive with the zone-blocking offensive line scheme, as it will open up numerous holes for him to run through. A powerful running game will enable opposing defenses to respect the pass, further helping Jamarcus Russell to develop.

For the 2008 season, a one-two punch with Justin Fargas would be enough to power our running game. Not to mention that we also have Dominic Rhodes ready and willing to come off the bench in order to play, with his new restructured contract. Lamont Jordan will either be cut or traded since his contract is unfavorable. Our fullback Justin Griffith, will be plowing the way for our running backs and should do a great job.