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Oakland Raiders' Darren McFadden (20) runs against San Diego Chargers' Takeo Spikes (51) in the third quarter at the O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif. on Monday, Sept. 10, 2012. (Nhat V. Meyer/Staff)

ALAMEDA -- If the Raiders were as aggressive at the point of attack as they are at defending their zone blocking scheme, they would probably gain a few yards.

Through two games, star running back Darren McFadden is stuck in the mud. He's totaled 56 yards on 24 carries, with no gain longer than eight yards, and the Raiders rank 31st in the league in rushing (out of 32 teams).

Judging from fan reaction on blogs, message boards and Twitter, the primary culprit is the same blocking philosophy that Hue Jackson de-emphasized in 2010 when he took over the offense and jump-started McFadden's NFL career.

Meanwhile, coach Dennis Allen remains undeterred. Gap and power blocking systems are out. Zone blocking -- which some critics term more finesse-oriented -- is in for the long haul. Things won't get easier Sunday when the Raiders host the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that last surrendered more than 100 yards per game rushing in 2003.

"I've got all the confidence in the world in our running game," Allen said Wednesday. "I've seen it work. It's been successful in this league, and we've got the right personnel to get it done."

Allen saw it work Sunday, when Miami's Reggie Bush found running lanes off zone schemes and rushed for 172 yards and two touchdowns against the Raiders. Allen hired offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and line coach Frank Pollack from Houston, where running back Arian Foster has gained 2,840 yards over the past two seasons.


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The Raiders were a zone blocking team from 2007 through 2009, with players being responsible for clearing a gap or an area rather than a specific defender.

The offense did great things for Justin Fargas, who had a career year in 2009 with 1,009 yards on 222 carries. McFadden, however struggled for two seasons. In 25 games, he rushed for 856 yards on 217 carries, averaging 3.9 yards per attempt. He had only one game over 90 yards rushing.

Jackson, upon arrival, immediately went to McFadden and asked for his favorite running plays, including non-zone runs.

In 20 games with Jackson as the play-caller, first as offensive coordinator and then head coach, McFadden gained 1,771 yards, averaged 5.1 yards per carry and had more than 90 yards rushing 11 times.

There were extenuating circumstances, most notably a string of injuries that included turf toe on both feet, minor knee surgery and a bum shoulder that required postseason surgery in 2009.

There hasn't been a peep of complaint out of McFadden about the return of the zone scheme, which requires a runner to have a moment of patience before putting a foot in the ground and cutting to an open lane.

"Going with the zone scheme is one of those situations where you're going to have to keep hitting it until you get going," McFadden said. "It's going to be one yard here or two yards there, but eventually it's going to start popping."

Critics contend the zone scheme lacks aggression in some instances and can bog down in the red zone or in short-yardage. Or that it is a running system built on finesse instead of power.

"We're not playing laterally," Pollack said. "It's not a soft scheme. We're coming off the ball, north and south, it's just how we're accomplishing our scheme where we're not staying on specific defenders. We're working through gaps, sorting out the trash if you will, and going downhill."

The Raiders' problems, Allen believes, are related to execution and not scheme. The middle of the Raiders offensive line, which included center Stefen Wisniewski in his first game after recovering from a calf injury, struggled against Dolphins interior defensive linemen Paul Soliai and Randy Starks.

Right tackle Khalif Barnes departed with a groin injury in favor of Willie Smith, who joined the Raiders just before the start of the regular season.

"It's going to take some time to be a cohesive group where they can work together and understand how we're going to fit with certain fronts and stunts," Allen said.

Left guard Cooper Carlisle, who played on coach Mike Shanahan's zone-blocking teams in Denver, said, "I'm a believer in the system. I have confidence in it, and I think most guys have confidence in it. We just haven't hit any big runs."

For more on the Raiders, visit the Inside the Oakland Raiders blog at ibabuzz.com/oaklandraiders. Follow Jerry McDonald on Twitter at Twitter.com/Jerrymcd.