Jennings finding stride as featured back

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
6:44
PM ET
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Has Rashad Jennings relegated Darren McFadden to the role of change-of-pace running back?

And if so, would that necessarily be a bad thing?

Jennings
McFadden
Of course, for McFadden to get on the field at all he'll have to heal up from his tweaked right hamstring. The injury has already cost him three games this season, including the last two in a row and most likely this weekend's home game against the Tennessee Titans.

Consider: While McFadden has averaged 3.6 yards per carry in running for 352 yards on the season, Jennings, signed to be the injury-prone McFadden's backup, has rushed for 340 yards on a 6.0-yards-per carry average over his last three games.

More impressive? While McFadden excels in space, Jennings seems to thrive on contact. His 3.2 yards-per-carry-after-contact average is tops in the NFL among players with at least 20 carries.

"It's a tribute to the line opening up holes, to be able to hit it running downhill," Jennings said Thursday. "You get those yards after contact when you have a hole. So that just straight goes to the offensive line."

Meanwhile, McFadden is averaging 1.9 yards after contact.

Another big day by Jennings, who had a career-long 80-yard touchdown run in Houston that contributed to his career-high 150 rushing yards, would again take the pressure off rookie quarterback Matt McGloin.

"Any time you can run the ball, it helps your quarterback," coach Dennis Allen said. "That's kind of been our thought process all along ... to have a good solid running game and take some of the pressure off the quarterback, do some things in the play-action game. So yeah, when you're able to be balanced that helps.

"If we're able to throw the ball, that helps Rashad and the running game. Both of those things work together."

Still, Jennings picking up so much real estate after that first hit is impressive, as well as his ball security -- he has yet to fumble this season and has fumbled only three times in 401 career touches, including catches, losing one.

But about that yards-after-carry stat ...

Per ESPN Stats & Info, Jennings gained 109 yards after initial contact against the Texans, the most by any player this season.

He also became just the third player this season to gain at least 100 yards after contact in a game, along with Adrian Peterson and C.J. Spiller.

Plus, Jennings entered this week with 141 yards after contact on 71 rushes, while 73 of his yards on his 80-yard run in Houston came after contact, the most yards after contact on a single run in the NFL this season.

"It's my job," he said. "Can't be overzealous about doing something you're supposed to. Like I said, really, if the line doesn't give a hole to even stick your head in, nothing happens."

Paul Gutierrez

ESPN Oakland Raiders reporter

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