NAPA -- Darren McFadden took a handoff from Matt Flynn on Friday and with no hesitation hit a sliver of air between guard Lucas Nix and center Stefen Wisniewski at nearly full speed.
No defender laid a hand on McFadden until he was at least three yards downfield -- which is roughly what he averaged per carry in 2012 in a zone scheme ill-suited to his nature as a runner.
It was a simple running play in a non-padded practice on the first day of training camp, but illustrated nicely what McFadden does best. The zone scheme, which called on McFadden to move laterally before cutting back against the grain, helped drop his yards per carry to a career-low 3.3 yards.
"I love a downhill scheme, so I'm very confident about it," McFadden said. " I'll just be able to get out there and go downhill. That's one of my strong points.
For all the changes on the Oakland roster, the one constant was McFadden. Both coach Dennis Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie went out of their way to talk him up in the offseason.
Allen's hiring of line coach Tony Sparano and offensive coordinator Greg Olson came in part because both had the right answer in terms of getting McFadden back to the form he displayed in 2010 and 2011 when Hue Jackson designed the offense and called the plays.
It was Jackson who put in McFadden's favorite gap and power runs at the expense of the zone scheme preferred by Tom Cable. McFadden averaged 5.2 and 5.4 yards per carry in 20 games over those two seasons with 11 rushing touchdowns.
Asked what it feels like to have coaches who will cater to his talents, McFadden said, "It feels great. I feel like I'm a downill runner and that's something the coaches see also. By getting us in a gap scheme offense, they feel that suits me a lot more."
Allen liked what he saw of the re-tooled running game on the first day of practice.
"We ran the football well, the offensive line did a nice job, the backs did an excellent job of being able to run the football," Allen said. "That's something we're going to have to be able to do. Darren's one of our most explosive players and we've got to put him in position so that he can have success."