ALAMEDA, Calif. – The Oakland Raiders spent this offseason getting rid of almost all of the remaining high-profile players brought in by the previous regime.
One of the few still around in Oakland is running back Darren McFadden. McFadden is entering the final season of his rookie contract hoping a new offense that better suits his talents will help revive his game after a disappointing 2012 season.
General manager Reggie McKenzie cut three former top 10 picks this offseason when he let go of defensive back Michael Huff, receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and linebacker Rolando McClain. But he remains confident McFadden can regain the game-breaking ability he showed when healthy in 2010 and '11 under former coach Hue Jackson's offense.
"It's a great feeling that they have that confidence in me so I just want to go out there and prove to them on the field that I can do that, and just show them that I'm the type of player they think I'm capable of being," McFadden said Thursday.
The Raiders officially returned to work this week with plenty of new faces from the team that went 4-12 in the first season under coach Dennis Allen and a brand new offense under new coordinator Greg Olson.
Olson replaced Greg Knapp, who was fired after last season when his offense didn't fit the personnel in Oakland. The biggest mismatch was McFadden, who had struggled in a zone-running scheme early in his career before thriving in a more power-based system.
After averaging more than 5 yards per carry in each of his two seasons in Jackson's offense, McFadden averaged just 3.3 yards per carry last season — the lowest ever for a Raiders back with at least 150 carries in a season.
"I came in last year with my hopes super high," McFadden said. "They were just crushed. So I just wanted to put that behind me and move forward."
While McFadden said his problems were about execution not scheme, his pleasure with the change was evident in his big smile when asked about what he liked about Olson's offense.
"It's a downhill offense," he said. "That's one of the main things I like about it. I'm the type of guy, I like to get going downhill off the back so I'm looking forward to it. I think it's going to be a great fit for our team."
When McFadden ran in a similar offense in 2010 and '11, he was one of the game's best big-play backs, gaining at least 20 yards on one of every 15 runs when he could mostly focus on running straight ahead.
Last year when the offense called for him to run outside and look for a hole to cut through, he had only four long runs in 216 carries.
"I think it will help him a ton," center Stefen Wisniewski said. "I would expect a lot more production out of him for sure. I'm not going to guess how much, but I really think he'll thrive in this."
McFadden is one of the few high-priced players remaining in Oakland after Huff, Heyward-Bey, McClain, quarterback Carson Palmer and defensive linemen Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly all left this offseason.
McFadden is one of only two former first-round picks remaining and is the longest-tenured position player along with safety Tyvon Branch still on the roster.
"I can honestly say I knew about 20 people," he said. "So it's part of football, guys are going to come in and out and you've just got to keep pushing forward and I feel like everybody's doing a great job of putting the team together and I'm looking forward to the season."
McFadden said he has not talked with the Raiders about extending his contract and is keeping his focus for now on playing football.