For the past six seasons, the Oakland Raiders have struggled to run the ball with Darren Mcfadden, with the exception of 2010, when he managed to stay healthy for 13 games and rush for 1,157 yards. Six seasons after being the fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft, Oakland is expected to let McFadden walk in free agency.
In 2013, Rashad Jennings provided a positive spark to their rushing game, rushing for 733 yards. Despite being a replacement player at first, Jennings outplayed McFadden, getting the majority of carries even when the latter was healthy. In the month of November, Jennings actually led the NFL in total offense by an individual player, accumulating 553 total yards.
Jennings also showed better ability to break tackles and visualize better rushing lanes, despite being supposedly slower and weaker than McFadden. Jennings did all of this despite playing behind one of the lowest rated run blocking offensive lines in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus. If the Raiders can improve their situation at guard, give Menelik Watson another year to develop, and resign Jared Veldheer, Jennings can produce monster numbers.
Here you can see Jennings create yards.
Whereas here, McFadden has to rely on his blocking creating a monstrous hole for him to get past the line of scrimmage.
McFadden then has the safety one-on-one in the second level, and is not able to even gain a yard past him. Below you can see Jennings in a similar situation, but is able to power through and gain extra yardage.
That previous play is an entire reason to resign Jennings. Numerous analysts cut Jennings down in the 2013 offseason, claiming he had no explosion or toughness in his game. He proved them wrong on one run.
Another underrated area of Jennings’ game is his catching and blocking in the pass game. Despite fullback Marcel Reece being known as a premier pass catcher, Jennings snagged 36 passes for an average of 8.1 yards per catch. He also demonstrated intelligence and willingness to throw his body around in pass protection.
While it may seem beneficial for the Oakland Raiders to dip into free agency to acquire a slightly more talented mid-tier running back, resigning Jennings is the appropriate thing to do. Jennings knows the offense and has proved he can produce in it.
Currently, only Reece and Latavius Murray are the only running backs under contract, but Murray spent his rookie year on IR, and Reece is better used as fullback/change-of-pace/receiving back.
The idealistic plan for Oakland would be the use Jennings as their workhorse back, pounding away at defenses, while subbing in Reece on passing downs to block and catch.
Jennings played under a veteran minimum contract in 2013, earning $630,000. General Manager Reggie McKenzie can easily re-sign him to a multi-year deal for about $1.5 million per year. For that price, McKenzie can have a starting caliber running back, and still retain the majority of his bountiful cap space to spend on other free agent reinforcements.