The Raiders are putting up offensive numbers this season that have not been seen in years in Oakland, and the straw that is stirring the drink right now is offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.
I’ve known Jackson since his days in Cincinnati, and he’s a phenomenal coach. He helped turn QB Carson Palmer and WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh into household names, and also mentored Ravens QB Joe Flacco during his first two seasons in Baltimore. Jackson is a great communicator, knows how to challenge players and has a great sense of tapping into their strengths.
Talking with Jackson leading up to last weekend’s broadcast against the Chiefs, I asked him about RB Darren McFadden and his increase in production this season. McFadden had one 100-yard rushing game his first two seasons, and he’s had four 100-yard games through the Raiders’ first eight games this season.
During the offseason, Jackson asked McFadden what he could do to help the running back be the player he wanted to become. McFadden voiced that in his first two seasons, he was used primarily on zone running plays. His best success at Arkansas, however, came when he was used on power plays up the middle and sweeps on the edge. Jackson recognized this, and told McFadden then that he would give him that chance.
Jackson knows what happens when a player tells a coach what they need to succeed. When a coach listens, players feels compelled and empowered to go out and make it happen.
In his two-plus seasons in the NFL, I’ve never seen McFadden finish off runs the way he did against the Chiefs. He was a beast, and had so much power running behind his pads. Jackson has given McFadden the runs designed to do what he said he needed, and the recipe to go out and get 1,000 yards. Now, McFadden feels like he has to make it work. He told Jackson what he needed, it was given to him, and now he’s got to take care of it.
You can tell by the way that McFadden is playing that Jackson’s touch is paying off. He has had a similar impact by empowering FB Marcel Reece, WRs Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford while TE Zach Miller and WR Louis Murphy have missed time. It’s no surprise that several of the Raiders told me they love playing for Jackson.
Never underestimate an offensive coordinator who has the mindset that winning games is really about running the ball. It’s about giving out bloody noses and being explosive at the same time. Jackson and coach Tom Cable share the same philosophies about how to win, and there’s no doubt Cable hired the right guy.
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