Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Welcome The Cable Guy

Al Davis had a very animated and unusual press conference today. (link)

During the press conference Davis outlined his reasons for firing Lane Kiffin. Since Kiffin was fired for "cause" or breach of his contract, it seemed Davis was especially careful with his answers. It had the feel of a deposition. It struck me as odd how he used a projector to show the following letter to the assembled press:

September 12, 2008
By Hand Delivery and Federal Express

Dear Lane:

Over the past months, you have made a number of public statements that were highly critical of, and designed to embarrass and discredit this organization, its players and its coaches. I left you alone during training camp in hopes that you would cease your immature and destructive campaign.

However, you continue to make public statements that are critical of the organization, its players as a whole as well as individual players. Such statements constitute conduct detrimental to the Raiders and I will no longer stand silently by while you continue to heart this organization.

Further, you contract is quite clear that you work “subject to the direction and supervision of the General Partner’’ and that the General Partner has the “exclusive right to do all things, which in its sole discretion are necessary to maintain and improve the Club, the football organization and their activities.’’

I realized when I hired you that you were young and inexperienced and that there would be a learning process for you. Your mistakes on player personnel and coaches were overlooked based on our patience with you. But I never dreamt that you would be so untruthful in statements to the press as well as on so many other issues. Your actions are those of a coach looking to make excuses for not winning, rather than a coach focused on winning.

For example, with the exception of Gibril Wilson, you were involved in recruiting all free agents and determining salaries for them and you were explicit in your desire to sign Javon Walker and DeAngelo Hall amongst others. All were a must to sign in your eyes, Hall in particular, because he played for Greg Knapp in Atlanta and Knapp gave him high grades. Do not run from that now.

I do realize that you did not want to draft JaMarcus Russell. He is a great player. Get over it and coach this team on the field, that is what you were hired to do. We can win with this team!

In regards to your recent fabrications about the defense, during the final cuts you made every cut on offense and every cut on defense except for Wakefield on defense and Wand on offense. Further more, during the game Monday night Rob played your Cover 2 defense and we got killed on an approximately 50-yard touchdown pass and approximately 70-yard gain that led to a field goal.

You meet every week with the defensive coaches to go over both the past game and to get a general feel for what will happen during the week in practice. You have the ability and authority to provide your input during those meetings and the preparation for the game plan. I do not have weekly meetings with Rob _ you do.

During the week no one has ever told you what to do on either offense or defense. In addition, no one has ever told you during a game what to do on either offense or defense and you call every play on offense. During a game if you want to blitz more, all you have to do is let Rob know what blitz you want and he will do it.

Although you continue to use the media to express your dissatisfaction with others, no one has publicly pointed out to you that in 4 preseason games and one regular season game played this year, your offense has scored one first half touchdown. That put tremendous pressure on the defense.

I know that you wanted to bring your father in to run the defense and that Monte told me he wanted to come here even though he is under contract to Tampa. However, I did not want to tamper with another team. In any event that was over seven months ago. Do not also run from the defense and your responsibilities.

This letter constitutes notice that if you further violate any term of your contract, in any manner whatsoever, you will be terminated for cause. I trust that this will not occur.

A.D. Football, Inc.

By: (Al Davis signature)

At the conclusion of Davis' press conference, he introduced the new Head Coach, Tom Cable. Go to Jerry McDonald's blog (link) to get some good insight on the press conference.

My initial view on the PC is that we only have 1 side of the story ... Al's view. This side portrays Kiffin as a weasel. Unfortunately, Kiffin has cancelled his PC for tomorrow at the advise of his attorney. Whether we ever truly get the other side to the story or not at this point is irrelevant. The other side I'm quite certain would portray Kiffin as a martyr. For a more captivating post on Weasel vs. Martyr go to Raider Take's blog. (link)

It was interesting to hear Cable speak. He is very direct, forceful, and sincere. His comments about Kiffin were telling in that he "loved and respected Lane who worked his tail off".

After sifting through some of the videos and initial reports (ie JMac), it seems like a classic case of a "personality conflict" between Davis and Kiffin where both were too stubborn for their own good and both equally at fault.

In hindsight, when things started to go sour back in January, you would have only hoped that both Davis and Kiffin put aside their differences, got on the same page, and made a concerted effort to mend any broken fences.

Putting The Pieces Back Together - Again

2002 Gruden - traded to Tampa Bay for high draft choices and $8M
2003 Callahan - "This has got to be the dumbest team in America" shown the door.
2004-2005 Turner - Adios Norvell
2006 Shell II - Shell and Walsh (Mr. B&B) win a whopping 2 games with the most antiquated and impotent offense in NFL history. See ya!
2007-2008.25 - Kiffin - Relieved of duties for "cause".

5 Head Coaches spanning the past 6.25 seasons have left Oakland for a variety of reasons including poor team performance.

(a) Free will (see Gruden)
(b) Losing the locker room (Callahan)
(c) Poor leadership (Turner)
(d) Out of touch with modern players/game (Shell II)
(e) Alleged insubordination (Kiffin)

Who hand selected these Head Coaches? Who was unable to retain the 1 Head Coach who had sustained excellence? Who is responsible for acquiring the personnel to comprise the team? Who is ultimately responsible for 5 consecutive seasons of double digit losses? And now that there is another mess to clean up, who needs to get out a bucket and mop?

If this organization truly wants to be about winning, some how, some way, Al Davis needs to create a supportive work environment that empowers the staff and players to put their best foot forward. He needs to be held accountable for how he spends the cap dollars, the players he takes in the draft, the players he acquires in free agency, and most importantly, his decisions on Head Coaches.

With Davis' advanced age, health issues, and concerns for his wife, it is only natural that he is unable to devote the daily time, focus, attention, and energy that a team without a GM requires. One solution to the current mess is to hire a seasoned GM to shoulder some of the heavy lifting. A GM is an important bridge, advisor, buffer, moderator, and facilitator between the owner and coaching staff/players.

The Raiders have an excellent core of young players. It is time to "keep your eye on the ball", Al, unless you want your legacy to be irrevocably tarnished.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

1 Game Through The Keyhole of 1 Play

Before I get to "1 game through the keyhole of 1 play", I wanted to touch on a few trends. This home game vs. San Diego followed some of the patterns established by the Raiders the past few weeks.

Good Trend: Defensive prowess ... for 3 quarters. The Raiders defense had 4 sacks, countless QB hurries, 2 interceptions, and a safety.

Bad Trend: The D ran out of gas in the 4th quarter. SD scored 25 points in the last quarter after scoring 3 points in the first 3 quarters.

Good Trend: The Raider team, under the leadership of Head Coach Lane Kiffin, played with passion, spirit, and heart in spite of the negative stories swirling around Alameda.

Bad Trend: With the Raiders collapse from a 15-0 3rd quarter lead, you can count on (a) more "Kiffin Will Be Fired on XX day" headlines or (b) an actual confirmed artile that reads "Kiffin is Fired."

Good Trend: The offensive unit driving the ball into the red zone for 3 scoring opportunities.

Bad Trend: The offensive unit sputtering in the red zone (0 for 3) resulting in field goals (3) instead of touchdowns (0).

Good Trend: WR Javon Walker catching 2 passes for 29+ yards in the 1st series of both the Buffalo game and SD game.

Bad Trend: WR Javon Walker pulling a houdini act for the rest of game by completely disappearing from the action on the field.

Good Trend: 3 consecutive weeks of double digit leads going into the 4th quarter.

Bad Trend: 2 back to back weeks of 4th quarter collapses where the D was running on fumes.

The Raiders Special Teams unit was exceptional. JLH had another great opening kick return. SeaBass converted all 3 of his real FG attempts and missed from 76. Yes 76. With :01 left in the 1st half, SeaBass attempted a ridiculous 76 yard FG attempt. With Russell being able to easily launch a ball 70+ yards, why didn't Kiffin go to max protection, Lelie and Higgins at WR, and go for a more realistic "Hail Mary" pass attempt to end the 1st half? The coverage units played well throughout the game but ... with the game on the line and 2:00+ minutes to go in a 18-18 tie game, the coverage units allowed Sproles to spring loose for a huge, 67 yard back breaking return setting up SD in Oakland territory.

1 Game Through The Keyhole of 1 Play ...
In most NFL games there are a few big plays that have a direct effect on momentum shifts and eventual outcome of a game. I know this is a bit of a stretch but this game which consisted of 133 total plays, pivoted on 1 play. In my humble opinion, this play alone was the difference from a W and an L. It dramatically altered the landscape of the entire game.

The play leading up to the play ...
The Raiders were leading the Chargers 15-3 with 4:00+ minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter. San Diego has the ball with a 3rd and long. The Raiders DLine got in Rivers face with good QB pressure which resulted in Rivers errant pass getting intercepted by DeAngelo Hall. Hall returned the interception 21 yards to San Diego's 38 yard line.

The Play ...
3:57 on the clock and the Raiders driving to deliver a knock out blow. After a 1st down, the Raiders are on the SD 27 yard line which is well within SeaBass range. Anything less than an 18-3 lead would be criminal. A TD drive would put the Raiders firmly in command with a 22-3 lead. Russell attempts a screen pass to McFadden that was tipped at the line by a SD Dlineman and intercepted by another SD defender. Instead of delivering a KO blow, this turnover gave SD new life. On the ensuing drive, SD goes 66 yards for a TD. Oaland 15 - San Diego 10. A potential 3 score lead in 1 pivotal play evaporates to a 1 score lead. 1 game through the keyhole of 1 play.

One Final Note:
Even if it was one of Kiffin's last attempts to stamp his "team first" approach to Raider football, I sincerly appreciate his symbolic move of having the Raiders introduced to the home crowd by position groups vice individual players.

"That whole individual introduction, with everybody dancing around, we're not doing that any more. That's not who we are. We're going to play together as a team, and that's why we did it." Lane Kiffin

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Foot Off The Gas

In the Raiders heartbreaking loss to the Bills, 23-24, there are 2 chief reasons why a very winnable game became a “L”.

Red Zone Inefficiency
In the first half, the Raiders offense had the ball at Buffalo’s 5 yard line, 18 yard line, and 11 yard line. The result was 3 SeaBass field goals.

First possession of the game was set up nicely by a Johnny Lee Higgins (JLH) 68 yard kick off return. Russell completed 2 passes to JaVon Walker to move the ball to Buffalo’s 5 yard line.
On second and five, Russell could not find an open receiver and wisely threw it out of the end zone. The third and five was a questionable play call. Instead of giving Russell a rollout, pass/run option, or perhaps a swing pass to McFadden in space, Russell attempted a very difficult fade pattern to Walker in the corner. SeaBass gets us on the board for 3.

Fourth possession of the game the Raiders started at Buffalo’s 42 yard line. This was courtesy of the Raiders D. Ryan unleashed both Hall and Wilson on a blitz. Hall and Burgess got to QB Edwards and sacked him on a third and 10. A 22 yard completion to WR Lelie moved the ball to the 20. An incomplete on first down was followed by a 2 yard run by RB Bush. Facing third down and 8 from the Buffalo 18 yard line, the Raiders attempted another pass to the corner of the end zone to Walker. Same result. Incomplete. Out trots SeaBass for a chippy.

On the seventh possession of the game, Oakland started on Buffalo’s 40 yard line. This field possession was handed on a silver platter to the O by means of a DE Edwards sack/tomahawk chop with Sands recovering the fumble. On second and 4, Russell found a wide open FB Griffith near the sideline for a 20 yard gain. The Raiders had first down on Buffalo’s 15 yard line. 3 straight runs for a net 4 yards led to SeaBass kicking another FG.

Through the first half and the beginning stages of the third quarter, the defense played an attacking, aggressive D that gave the Raiders numerous short fields to work. Using blitz pressure and tight man to man coverage, the D created 3 turnovers, 3 sacks, and close to a dozen QB hurries. QB Edwards was running for his life and unable to get into any rhythm. In spite of the offense not capitalizing on key red zone scoring opportunities, the Raiders were firmly in charge of the game’s outcome. At the mid point of the third quarter the Raiders had a 16-7 advantage. With 6 plus minutes to go in the game, the Raiders were up 23-14. So what happened? This brings up point number 2.

Prevent D = Prevention of a W
A number of things happened in the second half that were factors in this comeback victory. Losing SS Wilson to a unsportsmanlike conduct ejection hurt the secondary and run D. Losing DT Warren to injury caused the Dline to wear down and use Sands and Wakefield more than usual. However the chief culprit for this letdown was DC Ryan. From the mid third quarter to the completion of the game, Ryan took his foot off Buffalo’s throat. His blitz packages and man to man coverage had worked beautifully for 2.5 quarters. Instead of using what worked so effectively, Ryan, for reasons that boggles my mind, went to zone coverage and very few blitz attempts. As a fan, I watched QB Edward get comfortable, get into rhythm, and pick apart the zone scheme.

On the fourth possession in the second half, down 16-7, Buffalo started at their own 4 yard line. Ryan went soft and Edwards methodically marched the Bills down for a 96 yard TD drive.

On the third play of the ensuing drive, the Raiders came right back with a slant pattern timed perfectly for JLH. Russell threw the ball for a strike in a small window. JLH took it to the house for a 84 yard TD. OK, so now were are up 23-14 with 6:23 remaining in the game. What does Ryan do with this 9 point cushion? You guessed it. Ryan went to a “prevent” D. WRs Evans and Reed worked the soft zone for receptions of 22 yards, 13 yards, and 16 yards. Buffalo scores a TD to put the game at 23-21 Raiders.

On the game deciding series of the game, the Raiders D clearly had run out of gas. Buffalo was dominating the trenches. With the game on the line, this is the time for Ryan to force the action, blitz, and play aggressive man to man D. Instead, we sat back and let the Bills dictate the terms of the action.

3 red zone possession by the offense that led to 3 FGs and 3 series by the D in the last 20 minutes of the game where we went soft … this is a tough loss to swallow. Kiffin needs to get more creative with his red zone playcalling. Ryan needs to use an attacking, aggressive “play to win” D for 4 quarters. Both Kiffin and Ryan need to be held accountable for this loss. Kiffin will likely be fired at the bye break and Ryan will get promoted to Head Coach which is only fitting in crazy Raiderland.

Up Next: San Diego Chargers visit Oakland

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Anxiously Awaiting The Verdict

The daily "Kiffin is still employed" drum beat continues. Is Al Davis awaiting a loss in Buffalo, the next big loss later in the season, or the next oral jab from Kiffin to pull the plug? Perhaps this is another media driven story based purely on speculation similar to the media storm swirling around Kiffin in January.

What exactly has Kiffin said or done that is so inflammatory, insubordinate, or detrimental to the Raiders team to cause Davis to be so hyper sensitive?

In essence, the comments that the media has milked for all it's worth are as follows;

* The Raiders D needs to get QB pressure especially on 3rd down.
(factual...see KC game adjustment)

* I leave the D to Ryan who gets input from the owner.

* I don't worry about the things I can't control.
(a typical feeling shared by many and a way for Kiffin to focus on the things he can truly affect)

From Kiffin’s press conference on Monday (transcript)

Q: Did part of you wake up this morning thinking you were going to be fired?

Kiffin: Not necessarily. I’m worried about what I can control. I’ve said that now for over a year and a half since we’ve been here. There are certain things I can control, there’s certain things I can’t. This happens to be the next one. He has a decision to make. It does me no good to worry about it right now. I was extremely pleased the way that our coaching team and our staff focused. The best thing that can happen for us — you guys have to do your job and ask the questions — is the more that we can stay focused as a team, as a coaching staff, and go forward from here, the better we will be.

Now take a step back and consider the following:

Kiffin was a 1st year HC last season who inherited a seriously flawed, talentless, dysfunctional 2-14 team. The 2006 season crushed the pysche, morale, and competitive spirit of all the players.

In his first season, it was a herculean effort by Kiffin to get the 2007 team to play competitive, spirited football. Kiffin’s team won only 4 games but the Raiders were in the hunt for another 7.
Now move forward to this season. We lay an egg vs. Denver and smoke KC on the road. 1-1.
2 mere games into a new season. The effort and execution was very evident in this game vs. KC.
If Davis fires Kiffin in the next day or two or anytime during the season for that matter, it is a destructive, shortsighted, and selfish move.

With all of “Kiffin will be fired” stories swirling, it is important to note that he hasn’t lost the locker room. All you need to do is read the countless quotes from the players the last few days including defensive players, stars, and captains Nnamdi Asomugha and Ronald Curry to know that the team believes in Kiffin as their HC.

"We've been dealing with that since March, or whatever, they've been going back and forth with it. You just worry about the things that you can control. I mean, it's business, and hopefully it doesn't happen. I think Kiffin does a great job, but it's Al's team and I think Kiffin knew that when he got here. Everybody knows what's going on.” WR Ronald Curry

The job of coaching, leading, game planning done by Kiffin in a very difficult week leading up to KC clearly shows he has the right stuff.

My heartfelt request to Davis would be to simply give Kiffin this season to prove his mettle. Base your decision to keep him beyond 2008 on the performance and results on the field.

Just once I would love to see Davis put his ego in check, sit down with Kiffin & Ryan, and work through this for the benefit of the team, coaches, and fans. To fire him early is just plain wrong. For the Raider team to finally get traction requires stability not a coaching carousel.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

An Awakening in Arrowhead

From humiliation to jubilation ... what a difference a week makes. The big question going into Sundays game in Arrowhead Stadium was how would the Raiders respond after getting trounced by Denver on opening night. The first step in the awakening was to have an excellent week at practice in spite of all of the turmoil and negative stories from the press. Step two was to execute a game plan that in it's simplest form is essentially playing an aggressive, spirited, and sound brand of football. The specifics of the blueprint for the success of this 23 to 8 victory on the road was as follows :

On Defense:

(1) Commit to stopping KC's rushing attack; Check.
The KC Chiefs had a grand total of 55 net yards rushing. Star RB Larry Johnson had 12 carries for 22 yards. Raiders SS Wilson did an excellent job supporting the run D.

(2) Create consistent QB Pressure; Check.
On the 2nd play of the game, CB Nnamdi Asomugha blitzed QB Huard. Although the blitz wasn't successful, the mindset of dictating the terms to the game was accomplished. On KC's second series of the game, LB Thomas Howard blitzed and sacked QB Huard for an 8 yard loss. LB Kirk Morrison and SS Girbil Wilson were also used liberally to get after the QB. The Raiders use of the blitz and surprising good pressure from the base 4 led to 5 sacks. Most importantly, the consistent QB pressure provided by the front 7 led to hurried throws, 2 interceptions, and dictated the tempo of the game.

On Offense:

(1) Protect QB Russell; Check. Hats off to LT Mario Henderson who had a very difficult assignment protecting Russell's blindside. In his first start in the NFL in very hostile territory he played solid football. Russell wasn't sacked one time.

(2) Establish the run; Check. The Raiders OLine was getting to the second level of KC's D and executed the Zone Blocking Scheme to near perfection. For the game, the Raiders carried the ball 47 times for 300 yards! That is a whopping 6.4 yards per carry average. Rookie Darren McFadden was sensational. Run DMc had 21 carries for 164 yards for 7.8 yards per carry and 1 TD. During the course of the game, McFadden ripped off runs of 21 yards, 50 yards, 19 yards, 24 yards, and 24 yards. That is 5 carries for 138 yards.

Going beyond the statistical whip down of the Chiefs, what I really appreciated was the unbridled passion that was displayed by the entire Raiders team. Playing with emotion and purpose carried the Raiders to a higher ground ... at least for a week. The ups and downs of being a Raider fan neatly encapsulated in 2 short weeks. The question is whether we are as good a football team demonstrated today or as bad as the team that showed up on MNF. Was this game a foundational first step in building a winner or was it merely an aberration? We shall see ...

Next Up: Raiders travel to Buffalo to play the 2-0 Bills.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

To Blitz Is Elementary, Rob

Before anyone gets too close to the edge, take a deep breath. As Nnamdi Asomugha put it "the D laid an egg" against Denver. The defensive unit was flat, passive, and out of position which is unacceptable on all 3 counts.

If you are going to pin this humiliating loss to Denver on any one person, the bulk of it falls on the shoulders of Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan.

Is the defensive ineptitude fixable? Absolutely. Our starting 11 are more than capable of playing MUCH better football IF, and this is a BIG IF, Ryan utilizes his personnel correctly AND puts a MUCH bigger emphasis on QB pressure.

In a typical game, the opponent runs approximately 60 offensive plays. Of those 60 plays, there are about a dozen plays throughout the game where a blitz is an OBVIOUS remedy to create QB pressure.

Without QB pressure, there is ZERO chance for success.

Let's be clear about a blitz. It is simply having 5 pass rushers instead of 4. It is simply using 1 player from the back 7.

Of our back 7, ALL of these players are more than capable of blitzing the QB. All of these players at some time in their career have blitzed the QB. It isn't rocket science. Use Howards speed off the edge. Move FS Huff into coverage responsibilities when sending Hall or Asomugha towards the QB. Have the DTs twist and send Morrison on a delayed blitz up the middle. Stick Wilson in the box and have him fire towards the QB. There are countless variations of different blitz packages that can be set in motion depending on down, distance, and personnel. If Howard is successful getting to the QB, keep doing it until the offense proves it can adjust/stop it.

Mixing and matching the secondary in coverage responsibilities would free up 1 rusher. Huff, Wilson, Asomugha, and Hall can cover AND be used to blitz. The LBs can be used at different junctures in the game to find a path to the QB. The QB needs to be put in a position where he is unsure who is going to blitz, from what angle, or what part of the field. Making the QB second guess his decisions and force him to get rid of the ball quickly are basic defensive tenants.

Keep in mind, the offense typically has 4 available "receivers" (2 WRs, TE, RB). If you blitz one player in the back 7, you still have 6 defenders covering 4 receivers.

How many times did Ryan blitz vs. Denver? Once? It is very discouraging and back breaking when an opponent coverts a high percentage of 3rd and longs (6+ yards or more). Give any capable QB time and he will eat our D for lunch.

The biggest problem I see is that Ryan doesn't bother to utilize his D in an aggressive fashion. As I said last year, Ryan needs to "cut his dogs of war loose". Instead, he totally lets the offense dictate the tempo and terms of the game. It is a Charmin soft D playing not to lose instead of playing to cause havoc and win.

I've heard many fans bellyache about Kiffin not managing the game, doing a poor job of playcalling, having his team ill prepared against Denver. Rubbish. The D's inability to stop Denver throughout the game impacted and changed the whole game plan and flow of the game.

If Kiffin had the authority over the D or Ryan grew a pair of balls, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

The only saving grace I can see from my vantage point is that the Raiders were so humiliated that hopefully a light bulb went off in Ryan's mind: "Yeah, I'm going to be fired at the end of the year if our D keeps stinkin' up the joint. I might as well go down swinging with my D playing a VERY aggressive brand of football."

No blitz packages + soft coverage = recipe for more ugly losses. Hall & Asomugha in press coverage, Wilson in the box, and 1 blitzer in obvious passing downs and we will be dictating the outcome.

This Sunday vs. KC, the defensive game plan should be (1) stop the run at all costs with 8 in the box (2) blitz on obvious passing downs/3rd and longs. Do those 2 things effectively and it allows the offense more possessions, better field position, and a chance to establish the run instead of playing from behind a 2+ score deficit.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Storm Clouds Shall Pass

The Broncos thoroughly throttled the Raiders 41 to 14 last night before a national audience. The Raiders defense wasn't able to (or chose not to; pick one) tackle, rush the passer, cover the receivers, stop the run, disguise their schemes, utilize blitz packages ... am I missing anything? Denver was able to successfully dial up any plays at will. It was U-G-L-Y & disheartening at the same time.

The only silver linings I could honestly find from this mess was the overall performance of JaMarcus Russell and the running attack. Russell completed 17 of his 26 attempted passes for 180 yards, 2 touchdown passes, and zero interceptions.

Instead of over analyzing this drubbing, this one belongs in the garbage can. The only true and sure way to get past this humiliating defeat is to make amends next Sunday in KC.

"Take your mind off the bad things, act like it never happened, and keep going," Russell said after the game.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Let's Ride

I always find it quite amusing and at times extremely annoying how a well paid journalist will use an outlandish, shocking prediction and purposely avoid common sense to back up his claims.

In this article, the scribe says in effect that Darren McFadden will be a "bust" in the NFL. Is it fair to call someone a "bust" before he has even taken a single snap in the NFL? That is debatable. Here are the 4 basic points the writer uses to give McFadden the very premature label of "bust":

(1) Don't be "blinded" by McFadden's production as a college player at Arkansas

(2) McFadden does not possess the lateral quickness, elusiveness and explosiveness to be an elite back in the NFL

(3) McFadden's 4.3 speed is merely "straight line speed" and in effect not a useful tool in the NFL

(4) McFadden plays the game with little physicality

Point 1:
I'm completely dumbfounded how the writer could totally discount McFadden's record of achievement (see link) in his 3 years at Arkansas. As a freshman he averaged 6.3 yards per carry and scored 11 TDs in 11 games. As a sophomore McFadden accumulated 1,647 yards on the ground and scored 14 TDs in 14 games. Last year, McFadden ran the ball for 1,830 yards and scored 16 TDs in 13 games. Over the course of his 3 year career at Arkansas, Run DMc rang up an amazing 4,590 yards rushing and rushed the ball for 41 TDs in 38 games.

What do these statistics show? It demonstrates a consistently high level of performance. The backdrop to these numbers is that Run DMc piled up these numbers against arguably the best defensive units in the entire country. The SEC is well known for having some of the most tenacious, athletic D's in the country. Teams like Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Auburn, and LSU are very formidable opponents.

Point 2:
It is important to point out that there are numerous attributes to a good RB in the NFL. Certainly, lateral quickness, elusiveness, and explosiveness are key traits. I would also include such attributes as toughness, speed, and instincts. My bone to pick with this writer is how did he determine and quantify that McFadden doesn't possess good lateral quickness, elusiveness, and explosiveness. He says he measured it by watching 8 games of McFadden on film.

Here are just a few opinions to ponder in relation to the above point. How does a player like McFadden rush the ball 32 times for 206 yards vs. LSU if he doesn't possess some of the above attributes? Did he do it with mirrors? Did the LSU D take the day off? Keep in mind that every Arkansas opponent was stacking the box to stop McFadden. How does a player like McFadden rip off 81 and 92 yard runs on kickoff returns without being able to explode and elude defenders?

Point 3:
It is completely asinine to say that speed doesn't matter in the NFL. Speed is one of the most important tools for a playmaker. It can be the difference between an 8 yard run and 60 yard scamper into the end zone. Of course speed alone doesn't equate to success in the NFL otherwise Usain Bolt would be signing a big fat contract. The fact that McFadden has exceptional speed (4.3) makes him especially dangerous when he turns the corner or gets into the second level of the defense. He has the type of speed that Raider fans truly believe that every time he touches the ball he could hit pay dirt.

Point 4:
This is just plain silly. To carry the ball 785 times in the SEC requires an RB to be both physical and extremely tough. McFadden was extremely effective in both short yardage packages and goal line plays. While putting up eye popping stats over the past 3 years, McFadden had to fight for many extra yards, take on defenders, stiff arm opponents, etc.

Will Run DMc become one of the elite backs in the NFL? Nobody knows. It would be foolish for me to predict McFadden's destiny before he has played a single game and with all of the unknown variables that will influence his career. Based on McFadden's physical tools, track record in college, and overall football instincts, all I can say at this point is "Let's Ride"!