The real Darren McFadden may finally show not only the Oakland Raiders, but the rest of the NFL what he is made of. After five injury-riddled season in the NFL, the team that made him the fourth-overall selection in the NFL Draft may have found a way to keep him injury-free and hungry to prove he is a star in the making.
The Raiders signed Maurice Jones-Drew after resigning McFadden to a new one-year contract.
The possibility of competition could be exactly what this running back needs to be a superstar.
McFadden missed six games due to injury last season and has never played a full, 16-game slate. With that in mind, Oakland decided to go out and get some competition in the form of MJD. Jones-Drew has had some injury issues in his own right, but he is also a three-time All-Pro.
And to top it all off, Jones-Drew has won a rushing title with a very poor Jacksonville Jaguars team.
It’s that kind of motivation that the Raiders hope will light a fire under McFadden’s feet. Right now, there are some reports that state Jones-Drew has an early advantage on the younger, more explosive McFadden.
Jones-Drew is three years McFadden's senior at 29, and he has more tread on his tires with nearly 1,000 more rushes over the course of his NFL career. With that said, he has largely remained healthy in eight NFL seasons, with the exception of 2012.
The Raiders worked in the offseason to retool the offense and reload with more weapons. The team traded for Matt Schaub at quarterback and James Jones at receiver. The team also added depth and strength on the offensive line. All these tools at head coach Dennis Allen’s disposal, which also means this may be a sink or swim season for him as well.
But for McFadden, the time is now. With a new contract – which is a last ditched effort for the team to recover some of its investment – means any injury or a lack in production probably means the end of the Arkansas product’s career on the west coast and a new lease on an NFL life for Jones-Drew.
When push comes to shove, however, the title of starter may not mean all that much. Every NFL team needs at least a couple of backs who are capable of carrying the load, and the Raiders seem to have that with McFadden and Jones-Drew.
According to Steve Corkran of the San Jose Mercury News, Allen's expectation is that both players will be key to the offense's success in 2014: "They understand that both of them are going to get an opportunity to play, both of them are going to get touches and they're competing really hard," Allen said. "It's important for both of them. Both of them want to be the starter. They wouldn't be good football players if they didn't want that."
And for McFadden, the desire to prove the naysayers wrong might be worth more than the competition that lies in front of him.