Heading into the seventh game of the season a year ago, Oakland's Darren McFadden was one of the NFL's premiere running backs as the Raiders prepared to face the Kansas City Chiefs.
McFadden had 610 yards rushing on 110 carries, an average of 5.5 yards per attempt. He'd exploded for a career-high 171 yards against the New York Jets in Week 3.
The Raiders were 4-2 and one of the NFL's surprise teams.
With his hot 2011 start following a breakout season in 2010, when he rushed for 1,157 yards and averaged 5.2 yards per carry in 13 games, McFadden was as productive as he was explosive. He looked every bit the two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up he was at Arkansas.
Then on Oct. 23, 2011, McFadden, who had carried just twice for 4 yards, caught a short pass from Jason Campbell and fell awkwardly on the O.co Coliseum turf.
He hasn't been the same since.
Fast forward to 2012, and the Raiders (2-4) are preparing to face the Chiefs again in the seventh game, this time at Arrowhead Stadium.
McFadden has a minor shoulder issue but is otherwise healthy. However, he ranks 24th in the NFL in rushing with 324 yards on 103 carries (3.1-yard average). He has gained 100 yards once -- a 19-carry, 118-yard effort against Pittsburgh that included his lone breakout run, a 64-yard touchdown bolt.
That game was the exception.
His most recent outing, 19 carries for 53 yards against a Jacksonville defense that came into the game ranked 30th against the run, pretty much mirrors his 17.2-carry, 54-yard average through the first six games.
McFadden's production is not what anyone with the Raiders had in mind when they proclaimed him the focal point of a run-oriented offense.
Oakland coach Dennis Allen, who as defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos was on the opposite end of a 150-yard McFadden rushing effort in the 2011 season opener, was asked if his running back looks like the same guy.
"Yeah, he does," Allen said. "He's still an explosive player. We've got to do a better job creating room for him to run. We've incorporated a few more of those gap-scheme plays, and I know you can say this on every play, but we're one block here or there from a big run."
There are times when McFadden looks every bit the terror he was early last season. Against the Atlanta Falcons, he steamrolled safety Thomas DeCoud on a run Earl Campbell would have been proud to call his own.
The play was called back by a holding penalty; McFadden had 41 yards erased on holds against the Falcons.
For the most part, McFadden has been met in the backfield, or strung out on stretch plays. He's had difficulty getting to the second level, where he is at his most dangerous.
There were some eyebrows raised when Allen and new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp decided the Raiders would return to the zone blocking scheme, which was instituted by Lane Kiffin in 2007 and carried out by line coach and eventual head coach Tom Cable.
Those seasons coincided with McFadden's first two years, during which he gained 856 yards on 217 carries over 25 games, averaging 3.9 yards per carry. The word "bust" was beginning to become associated with McFadden.
Team owner Al Davis hired Hue Jackson to take over the offense from Cable in 2010, and one of Jackson's first moves was to ask McFadden his favorite running plays. McFadden said he preferred the kind of gap and power runs where he hit the line immediately, rather than those that called for the moment's hesitation required in the zone scheme.
When zone blocking returned this season, McFadden said he was fine with zone running, attributing his struggles in the first two seasons to injuries ranging from turf toe (on both feet), MCL surgery and a shoulder that needed postseason surgery.
Knapp and Allen thought McFadden was perfect for the one-cut scheme.
During the team's Week 5 bye, the Raiders made a concession of sorts when they blended some gap and power runs in an effort to help McFadden get going. It made little difference against Jacksonville.
McFadden remains good-natured and is outwardly positive. He said he is studying all of his carries.
"You want to look at every run so you can know what you did wrong or if you should have stayed with the hole or made an earlier cut," McFadden said. "It's one of those things where you have to go back and re-evaluate yourself."
Allen thinks that with a few big plays, McFadden will be off to the races.
"You look at the Pittsburgh game and his best rushing output, and he had an explosive (64-yard) run," Allen said. "That's how you get those big games. You have one or two explosive runs, and all of a sudden you look up and here's a guy with a hundred-and-something yards rushing."