Darren McFadden of the Oakland Raiders rushes past Demorrio Williams of the San Diego Chargers Monday, Sept. 10, 2012 in Oakland. The Chargers won the game
Darren McFadden of the Oakland Raiders rushes past Demorrio Williams of the San Diego Chargers Monday, Sept. 10, 2012 in Oakland. The Chargers won the game 22-14. (Anthony L. Solis/Santa Cruz Sentinel)

ALAMEDA -- For all the subterfuge involved at quarterback for the Raiders, the numbers suggest it won't be Terrelle Pryor, Matt Flynn or a combination of the two that will determine whether they can beat the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1.

The antidote to what ails the Raiders is Darren McFadden.

"I think we all understand the significance of getting Darren McFadden going for our offense," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said Thursday.

McFadden has rushed for 100 or more yards 12 times as a Raider and in those games has 1,590 yards on the ground, averaged 6.0 yards per carry and his team has averaged 29.7 points per game with a record of 10-2.

In the 68 games where McFadden didn't gain 100 yards or didn't play because of injury, he has 1,744 yards, averaged 3.4 yards per carry and his team has averaged 17.1 points per game with a record of 20-48.

Even in 2012, a year McFadden would rather forget, he made it to 100 yards three times and the Raiders won all three games in a 4-12 season.

After being held out for the better part of all four preseason games, McFadden is eager to hit the ground running without having to think about it.

"Any time opening day comes I'm like a kid on Christmas," McFadden said. "I feel like the best is yet to come. I haven't played a full season, so I feel that's what's coming for me. ... I love the offense that we're in, being able to run downhill, so I'm just looking forward to it."


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A year ago, McFadden gained only 707 yards and averaged 3.3 yards per carry in offensive coordinator Greg Knapp's offense that relied heavily on zone blocking. Zone runs call for backs to hesitate for an instant before making one cut upfield.

The result? McFadden struggled as he did in his first two seasons when Lane Kiffin and Tom Cable instituted a zone scheme. It wasn't until Hue Jackson came in as offensive coordinator that he went directly to McFadden and asked for his favorite plays.

For two seasons, McFadden when healthy was one of the NFL's elite backs, gaining 1,771 yards in 20 games and averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

Back in the zone scheme last season, McFadden averaged just 1.6 yards after contact (39th in the NFL) and only one of every 54 rushes went for 20 or more yards. In 2010 and 2011, one of every 15 runs went for 20 or more yards.

Offensive coordinator Greg Olson watched every one of McFadden's 769 career carries on tape and remade the offense with his most explosive player in mind.

"He's a guy that there may be some 2-yard runs, some 3-yard runs maybe a 4 and then boom, you pop one," Allen said. "We're hoping we can give him a crease and he can break off a couple of big runs.

Oakland Raiders’ Darren McFadden (20) runs against the Kansas City Chiefs in the third quarter at the O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Sunday,
Oakland Raiders' Darren McFadden (20) runs against the Kansas City Chiefs in the third quarter at the O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012. (Nhat V. Meyer/Staff)

McFadden's tenure has been interrupted by a series of unrelated injuries -- he's never played more than 13 games in a season -- but he believes his luck is about to change.

He is still only 26 and in a contract year, but McFadden's prime motivation is demonstrating he still can be an elite back.

"People talk about contracts and all that, but for me, it's just going out and proving a point," McFadden said. "If I can do that everything else will fall into place."

Indianapolis, 10-6 last season, ranked 29th in run defense and gave up 5.1 yards per carry. The Colts gave up 226 yards to Jamaal Charles, 177 yards to Maurice Jones-Drew and 165 yards to Arian Foster -- all runners to whom McFadden compared favorably two years ago.

In the offseason, Indianapolis signed free-agent defensive linemen Aubrayo Franklin and Ricky Jean-Francois, both former 49ers, and also added strongside linebacker Erik Walden from the Green Bay Packers.

"Stopping McFadden is our major concern with the run game," Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano said. "He's a big, fast, physical guy that can run between the tackles, he can cut it back or he can bounce outside. If you give him a crease, he's got the speed to take it the distance. He's a home run hitter."

  • With Menelik Watson missing practice after a knee injury Wednesday, Khalif Barnes played at left tackle with Tony Pashos playing on the right side. Barnes said the last time he played left tackle was "probably five years ago when I was in Jacksonville. ... I'll get back on the bike and start riding again."

    If Watson can't play, the Raiders likely would promote Matt McCants from the practice squad.

    Place-kicker Sebastian Janikowski (calf) was back at practice and limited. Tight end David Ausberry (shoulder) did not practice.

    For more on the Raiders, visit the Inside the Oakland Raiders blog at ibabuzz.com/oaklandraiders. Follow Jerry McDonald on Twitter at twitter.com/Jerrymcd.

    SILVER BULLET
    Running back Darren McFadden has proved to be a game-changer on offense. Keeping him healthy for a full season has been the problem. Here are his career stats:
    Year G Att Yds TDs
    2008 13 113 499 4
    2009 12 104 357 1
    2010 13 223 1,157 7
    2011 7 113 614 4
    2012 12 216 707 2

    INSIDE
    Columnist Monte Poole writes safety Charles Woodson and coach Dennis Allen are keys for Raiders success. PAGE 3

    Sunday's opener
    Raiders at Indianapolis,
    10 a.m. CBS