ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The zone-read option play is dictated by the defense and designed to take advantage of a quarterback’s running skills.
It would also seem to place a premium on patience by the running back. Especially when it’s a runner as instinctive and, well, relatively impatient as Darren McFadden, who prefers to simply get the ball and go.
So yeah, you’d think being more of a decoy might wear on McFadden.
“For us, it’s really, you just want to be patient, you want to get the ball and then just try to read it as you get to the hole,” McFadden said Friday. “When you see the hole, just hit it.”
That was tough for McFadden to do last week in Indianapolis, though, as the zone-read option was called five times against the Colts and quarterback Terrelle Pryor kept the ball all five times. Only once, Raiders quarterbacks coach John DiFilippo said, did Pryor misread the play when he should have handed off to McFadden.
Pryor ran for 112 yards -- 33 on zone-read plays -- on 13 carries and currently leads the AFC in rushing while McFadden averaged 2.8 yards in carrying the ball 17 times for 48 yards.
“Being able to have a running quarterback, that’s something that’s going to open up the running game for a running back,” McFadden insisted. “A lot of defenses try to key in on him, but at the same time they have to worry about the running back also.”
Raiders coach Dennis Allen insisted the nature of the zone-read does not negatively affect the running back heading into Sunday’s home opener against Jacksonville.
“That’s just part of the game,” Allen said. “And really, we don’t care how we get the rushing yards or who gets the rushing yards, but we’ve got to be able to run the football. We were able to do that last week and we’ve got to continue to do that and that’s something that we work on and it’s part of our offense.
“(The zone-read option is) not exclusively what we do on offense, but it is part of what we do.”
Allen said he has not had to have a talk with McFadden, who is in a contract year, about being patient, either.
“No, not really,” Allen said, “and Darren understands how the offense functions and when we call those types of plays, and again, that’s part of what we do, it’s not exclusively what we do.
“There’s going to be times when we turn around and hand the ball to Darren and give him an opportunity that he knows he’s running the football. Darren’s going to be fine, guys. Everybody’s got a lot of concern about that, but Darren’s going to be fine.”
And McFadden is saying all the right things. Especially when asked if it’s frustrating not knowing if he’s going to get the ball or not when a zone-read play is called into the huddle.
“For me, I’m just trying to keep my pocket open,” he said, “(and) whether or not ... I feel the ball hit my bottom hand.”