11:22 PM EST, December 18, 2013
NFL Team Report - Oakland Raiders - INSIDE SLANT
Darren McFadden may end his Oakland Raiders career on the field after all.
The Raiders running back practiced Wednesday and is expected to play Sunday against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium after having missed the previous two games with an ankle injury.
McFadden has played in only one of the last six games, gaining 13 yards on five carries against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving before incurring the ankle injury.
It's a minor surprise, with the thought being McFadden would simply finish out his six-year, $60 million contract on the bench and then head into free agency.
McFadden, in fact, wouldn't rule out coming back to the Raiders, although the his disappointing performance over the last three seasons and injury history suggests general manager Reggie McKenzie will want to move on.
"I would love to be a Raider next year but I can only focus on things I can control," McFadden said.
McFadden is currently the Raiders' third-leading rusher with 365 yards on 103 carries, averaging just 3.5 yards per carry. Rashad Jennings leads the Raiders with 679 yards and a 4.6 average and six touchdowns, followed by quarterback Terrelle Pryor with 527 yards.
In terms of his Raiders career, McFadden hasn't been a bust after being the No. 4 overall pick in 2008, but he has been a disappointment.
Only during a 20-game stretch in 2010 and 2011 did McFadden resemble the explosive two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up at Arkansas. With Hue Jackson as head coach, McFadden had 1,773 yards and a 5.3 yards-per-carry average in 20 games. He was leading the league in rushing in 2011 before a Lisfranc injury ended his season in the seventh game.
That McFadden hasn't been seen since, languishing in offensive coordinator Greg Knapp's zone blocking system with 707 yards and a 3.3 average last season. Knapp was replaced by Greg Olson, whose first order of business was to restore the power and gap schemes that McFadden favored.
Instead, other than a 19-carry, 129-yard effort against Jacksonville in Week 2, the old McFadden has either been hurt or ineffective.
Asked if he looked at it as a lost season, McFadden said, "I feel that way but at the same time there's nothing I can do about that. That time is gone. I can only move forward and deal with the things that are in front of me."
McFadden's teammates for the most part still look at him as the same talent who excelled in 2010 and 2011 rather than the back who hasn't been able to get untracked for two years.
"It means the world to us, to have our best player on the field," fullback Marcel Reece said. "You can't replace a Darren McFadden. You don't replace a Darren McFadden."
Quarterback Matt McGloin said any speculation that McFadden wasn't interested in returning this season was in error based on how McFadden worked to get ready.
"He's a hard worker, a great guy to be around," McGloin said. "He sits in our meeting room before his starts, so you see how hard he works and how bad he wants to get back.
"Hopefully we can get him back out there and it will give us a lot more confidence. Our running backs have done a great job but it would be great to get Darren back in that mix, too."
SERIES HISTORY: 108th regular-season meeting, Raiders lead series, 58-47-2, including a 27-17 win over the Chargers on Oct. 6 in Oakland. In the high point of Terrelle Pryor's eight games as the Raiders' starting quarterback, he completed 18 of 23 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns -- including a 44-yard touchdown strike to Rod Streater on the first snap of the game. The Raiders led by as much as 24-3 in the third quarter. In the last meeting at Qualcomm Stadium, the Chargers beat the Raiders 24-21 in Pryor's first start in the 2012 regular-season finale. Pryor was 13 of 28 for 150 yards, two touchdowns, an interception and 49 yards rushing.
NFL Team Report - Oakland Raiders - NOTES, QUOTES
--Wide receiver Denarius Moore returned against Kansas City after missing three games with an AC joint injury, catching two passes for 46 yards with a long gain of 34 yards in the second quarter to set up a touchdown.
He came back playing behind Rod Streater and Andre Holmes, both of whom flourished in his absence.
"I felt close to normal," Moore said. "There was still some pain here and there, and when I try to turn certain ways I can still feel a sharp pain."
Moore said the last two games are for "pride, team chemistry and having the mindset of never giving up."
--Having given up 93 points in their previous two games, a 37-27 loss to the New York Jets and a 56-31 loss to Kansas City, the Raiders have sprung leaks everywhere on defense.
Against the Jets, the problems came on third down. The Chiefs gutted the Raiders for their first three touchdowns on screen passes.
Raiders coach Dennis Allen said defensive meetings have stressed the positive as much as possible and made corrections in a professional rather than confrontational manner.
"We're in the solution business," Allen said. "We're not pointing fingers. We're not looking at causing problems. We've got to eliminate a handful of plays that have been explosive plays."
--Allen has brushed aside all questions pertaining to his job security and said the sole focus is on winning the last two games rather than evaluating talent for the offseason.
"I think during the season it's about trying to win games," Allen said. "Obviously there's an evaluation part of that. Our focus is how do we play as well as we can play on Sunday to give yourself a chance to win? That's all our focus has been on and our guys have been working really well to get that done."
BY THE NUMBERS: 154 -- The number of yards needed by wide receiver Rod Streater to become the first Raiders receiver to gain 1,000 yards since Randy Moss (1,005) in 2005).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Because we have." -- Raiders coach Dennis Allen on why he has confidence his team can plug the defensive leaks of the last two weeks.
NFL Team Report - Oakland Raiders - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
With running back and special teams player Jeremy Stewart out with an ankle injury, fullback Marcel Reece served as the personal protector on the punt team and completed a 22-yard pass to cornerback Chimdi Chekwa for a first down against Kansas City.
Chekwa said it was a play called by Reece based on an alignment he saw from the Chiefs and likely would not have been called by Stewart simply because Reece has more confidence in his ability to throw the ball.
It will be a play the Chargers will have to look out for with Reece probably taking the same role.
--TE Mychal Rivera has two touchdown receptions in his past two games.
--WR Andre Holmes is averaging 18.4 yards per catch (14 receptions, 257 yards) over his last three games.
--DE Lamarr Houston has a sack in each of his last two games against the Chargers.
--QB Matt McGloin has a 90.7 passer rating in three road starts.
--FB Marcel Reece became the third Raiders back to break 200 yards rushing this season against the Chiefs.
--DT Vance Walker has not passed NFL-mandated concussion tests and likely will not face San Diego.
--LB Miles Burris played just two snaps against Kansas City, but injured an ankle on one of them and did not practice Wednesday.
--RB Darren McFadden returned to practice and expects to play against San Diego.
--RB Jeremy Stewart did not practice with an ankle injury.
--G Lucas Nix missed practice due to illness.
--TE Jeron Mastrud has a wrist injury but was not limited in practice.
By this point, the Raiders intent on both sides of the ball is clear. Offensively, they will look to run Rashad Jennings, interspersed with carries for Darren McFadden, Marcel Reece and the occasional read-option series or play by quarterback Terrelle Pryor. In theory, that enables McGloin to attack downfield, where his 15 plays of 20 yards or more leads the NFL over the past five games. On defense, Allen and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver are intent on mixing coverages and blitzes, something that Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers conceded was confusing in Week 1 but which has been gouged in recent games against the Jets and Chiefs.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Raiders SS Brandian Ross vs. Chargers TE Antonio Gates -- Ross has started since Week 3 after strong safety Tyvon Branch went down with what turned out to be a season-ending broken ankle. Ross has been OK in coverage but his play, along with the rest of the secondary, has slipped in the past few weeks both in terms of tackling and sticking with receivers. Gates is San Diego's leading receiver with 79 receptions for 799 yards. At 11.4 yards per catch, Gates isn't getting downfield as much as he used to but he is a big move-the-chains player going against a team that has been poor on third-down defense.
--Chargers CBs Richard Marshall and Shareece Wright vs. Raiders WR Rod Streater -- With 846 yards on 54 receptions, Streater has become the go-to receiver for starting quarterback Matt McGloin and the person he looks for under duress. Some of McGloin's forced interceptions have come because of his level of trust with Streater. With that in mind, Marshall and Wright, depending on where Streater lines up, can stymie the Raiders offense by taking Streater out of the equation or perhaps even baiting McGloin into a game-altering mistake.
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