Sunday, May 17, 2009

3 Headed Monster

One of the Raiders' biggest strengths going into the 2009 season will be the offensive rushing attack. I believe that one of the most important elements to the Raiders overall success as a team will be determined by how the RBs are utilized.

It will be imperative for Head Coach Cable to use his trio of backs in a creative, diversified, and prudent manner. Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, and Justin Fargas are each more than capable of being the "lead" back. Each component of the 3 headed monster has a different running style and brings a different skill set to the table.

Darren McFadden
In the case of Darren McFadden, he would seem to be the prime candidate to be the lead back due to his explosive talent and overall versatility. The way that I view Run DMc is that he is the type of weapon who deserves as many touches and time on the field as possible. When 100% healthy, #20 showed his electric play making ability vs. K.C. in week 2. In this game, McFadden ran the ball 21 times for 164 yards (7.8 YPC) and 1 TD. After suffering through multiple bouts of the dreaded turf toe, McFadden gutted through the rest of the season. The turf toe kept McFadden's season rushing attempts to a minimum (113) yet he was still productive at 4.4 YPC and 499 rushing yards and 29 receptions.

One of the most important goals Cable should have for each game is to creatively mix and match his complement of running backs to maximize matchups. It is also critical from a strategic standpoint to keep McFadden on the field the vast majority of snaps. Here are some of the sets where McFadden forces the opponent's D to account for his presence:

* McFadden as a single back; 3 WR set
* McFadden in the I formation with Neal as his lead blocker
* McFadden in the I formation with Bush; McFadden motions out of the backfield as a WR
* McFadden in a 2 RB set with either Fargas or Bush
* McFadden lined up in the slot as a WR
* McFadden out wide as the Z WR
* McFadden as a QB in the wild cat formation; run/pass option

Run, catch, and pass ... McFadden is a big play waiting to happen.

CJ's prediction: McFadden - 272 rush attempts (17 per game) x 4.5 YPC = 1,224 yards; 45 receptions

Michael Bush
Michael Bush's extraordinary performance vs. TBay in the last game of the season sets things up for him to move to the #2 back in terms of carries. Prior to the TBay game, Bush received very little playing time and opportunities to show off his talent. Playing a Bucs team gunning for a playoff berth, Bush demonstrated his future worth to the Raiders by ringing up 177 yards on 27 carries (6.6 YPA) plus 2 TDs. This breakout performance was no fluke. Bush was one of the most productive running backs in the history of the NCAA. It was an awakening for Raider fans and coaches alike because it was the first time in Bush's 2 year career that he received 20+ carries in a single game.

Bush would have been a sure-fire 1st round selection in the 2007 draft if not for suffering a broken leg in his senior season at Louisville. He has a unique combination of attributes which makes him a perfect complimentary back to McFadden. His size (245lbs) strength, and straight-line speed is ideal as a 1 cut and go, between the tackles, downhill locomotive for the Raiders ZBS. Michael also has very soft hands as a pass catcher and the ability to pass on selected trick plays.

CJ's prediction:
Bush - 144 rush attempts (9 per game) x 4.4 YPC = 633 yards; 32 receptions

Justin Fargas
Justin Fargas, aka "Test Crash Dummy", is the ultimate selfless team warrior. Last year he led the team in carries (218) but produced only 3.4 YPC. His reckless, hard-charging running style does serve a valuable purpose. Fargas all-out efforts and determination is an inspirational reminder to the rest of the team. However, with the emergence of Bush at the end of the season and McFadden being a player capable of becoming an elite back, I believe Fargas' carries will be minimized to roughly 6-8 carries per game. As a back-up, change of pace, and injury insurance, Fargas will still be a key cog in the 3 headed monster. Each game in a 16 game season has unique and varied circumstances. Depending on injuries, opponent, weather conditions, and other variables, each back has an opportunity to be a difference maker.

CJ's prediction:
Fargas - 112 rush attempts (7 per game) x 4.0 YPC = 448 yards; 15 receptions

CJ's prediction on the 3 Headed Monster's production: 528 rush attempts for 2,335 yards


Blogger Joaquin said...

I truly don't know of another team that has this much talent in the backfield.
With some creativity on offense and heads-up play calling, this trio could be something special.

5:22 AM  
Anonymous Steve said...

I agree that no other team I can think of has this much available talent at this spot.

I do, however, disagree with how you think the backs should be used.

With Bush's size, I personally think we should use him as the starter to pound the hell out of opposing defenses earlier in the game, changing him up depending on circumstances with McFadden or Fargas.

As we get later into the game, with opposing defenses tired of stopping a 6'3" 250# wrecking ball in Bush, we increasingly use the speed of McFadden on the outside and Fargas in the middle.

I think we should use them in this manner simply because of Bush's size, Fargas being injury prone due to his running style, and McFadden's open field abilities and hands (he hasn't really shown much ability to break tackles).

Using the backs will maximize their overall productivity, play to their strengths, minimize injuries and put less stress on what is currently a weak passing game.

6:55 AM  
Blogger Calico Jack said...

Joaquin: I sincerely believe that McFadden is on the cusp of becoming an elite back. Bush, if given enough reps., has the potential to be a solid & productive workhorse. Fargas is pure heart & warrior who brings it every Sunday. Yes, this could be a very special trio especially if they remain healthy.


The way I look at 2009 is as follows: The rushing attack is going to be our primary staple to our offense. In a typical game there are approx. 60 offensive snaps. A 55% run to 45% pass ratio would seem to fit our personnel and strengths. Approx. 33 rush attempts per game would seem to be a reasonable estimation.

The question is how do you divide the 33 rush attempts for the team to be most effective? I think a breakdown of the following makes the most sense:

McFadden: 17 rush attempts per game
Bush: 9 rush attempts per game
Fargas: 7 rush attempts per game

Why this breakdown? Of the 3 backs, McFadden is the most dynamic and explosive and the most qualified to be the "lead" back. However, I'm sure there will be games when Bush is the better weapon due to the opponent. The main point of this post was that I am hopeful that Cable will distribute the playing time, snaps, reps. in a flexible and creative manner to maximize the abilities of each back.

I agree about Bush being more of a battering ram to loosen up the D and he should get every opportunity possible to earn additional carries. Cable will need to adjust his game plan and useage of the backs depending on who is playing best and the particular game circumstances.

What I like about McFadden is his versatility. There is no reason that Cable can't use sets to incorporate both McFadden and Bush simultaneously.

6:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I predict more carries and catches from Bush over McFadden. Don't get me wrong, I like McFadden, but he's legs are twiggy(injury) and his hands are granite. Jeff

8:58 PM  
Blogger Calico Jack said...

Oh Jeff, come on now. McFadden has GREAT hands which is well documented by writers, coaches, and teammates alike.

Yes, he has skinny legs but that is a non-factor. He was one of the most productive backs in the history of the NCAA with his twiggy legs. BTW, Eric Dickerson and OJ Simpson had skinny legs.

The bottom line is that there are only so many carries (approx. 30-33per game) to distribute each game. How those carries are distributed is based on Cable's decision, each running backs productivity, the opponent, and the circumstances of the game. Ultimately the carries should be distributed in a way that gives the Raiders the best chance to succeed.

In my opinion, 50-60% of the carries should go to McFadden because of his big play potential, dynamic talent, and sheer explosiveness.

We all got to witness his game breaking abilities when he was 100%healthy vs. KC. We shall see. Regarless, I believe the Raiders rushing attack is capable of being a top 5 unit in the entire NFL.

9:40 PM  
Blogger Steve Ludwig said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8:54 AM  
Anonymous Steve said...


Agreed that McFadden is the most dynamic back, but I still have concerns about his ability to break through tackles. In his short tenure he hasn't really shown the ability to do so.

I’d like to see him used more on the perimeter and in the slot to create space for him, which is where he excels. If I were coach (which is the game we’re all playing here) I’d use Bush (or Fargas as a change-up) in the backfield to batter the tackles and use McFadden in the slot, then changing them up to keep defenses honest… wildcat formations for example.

After that, if we lined McFadden or Fargas up in the backfield, they might be headed to the perimeter, or running between tired tackles.

Personally I’d like to see the equation being more like Bush with 12-15 rushing attempts, McFadden with about 15 touches/game, with early touches being short passes to get him in space like we used to do with Garner, and Fargas as a change up with 5-6 rushes/game.

Honestly I’m not yet certain that Bush isn’t the “most qualified” to be the lead back. If he can perform week in and week out like he did against Tampa Bay at the end of last season, he has my vote. He has the size to break through tackles and tire defenses, he has good hands, and he’s got great speed. The only question in my mind is durability, which is yet to be known.

Fargas, who should be kept if for no other reason than his attitude, is injury prone due to his running style and if we reduced his carries he could be solid an entire season for a change.

Mind you that my comments on McFadden aren’t in disagreement with your thoughts, but simply that he is versatile enough to be used outside of the RB position and running between the tackles isn’t necessarily his strength.


10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bush is a gem. You knew it when he was drafted and have posted it many times since. Let McFadden get his touches and make his plays, but you got to be careful with a straight up, chicken legged ruuner. Just let Bush do the dirty work and beat the defense to a pulp. Jeff

9:43 PM  
Anonymous raidman75 said...

why would you post this article when you removed the video from youtube.... i really wanted to see it !

6:17 AM  
Anonymous raidman75 said...

i was talking about the ""mcfaden,bush,fargas video""

6:18 AM  
Blogger Calico Jack said...

not sure what your question is about, Raidman75. Why wouldn't I do this post and share the video later?

I did this post about the Raiders RBs on May 17.

A few days ago I noticed a new video on these same RBs so I posted the video to share with other Raider fans.

What's your point?

7:27 AM  

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