Jennings steps in for oft-injured McFadden

September, 29, 2013
9/29/13
10:59
PM ET
OAKLAND -- For years, the responsibility fell on Michael Bush.

Then, last year, Mike Goodson and Marcel Reece shared the duties.

Now, paging Rashad Jennings.

[+] EnlargeOakland's Rashad Jennings
Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY SportsRashad Jennings rushed for 45 yards and had 71 yards receiving in place of Darren McFadden.
The job description, of course, is being Darren McFadden’s backup, and being ready to play at the drop of a hat, or, in this case, the tweak of a hamstring.

Yes, McFadden went down to injury in the first half of Sunday’s 24-14 loss to Washington and Jennings, who signed with the Raiders as an unrestricted free agent this offseason, was put on the spot.

Jennings responded with 45 yards rushing (his second-highest total since 2010) on 15 carries and a career-high eight receptions for a career-best 71 yards. And don't sleep on his blocked punt that led to a quick 7-0 Raiders lead.

“You always have to see yourself as the guy,” said Jennings, who spent his first four seasons in Jacksonville, primarily as Maurice Jones-Drew's backup.

“I do back up Darren, (and I) make sure he’s always ready to go, and he’s an awesome player and we’re going to be excited when he returns.”

Raiders coach Dennis Allen, though, was not sure of a timetable for McFadden’s return in the immediate aftermath of the game. But this much is true -- McFadden has an injury history and the sixth-year pro in a contract year has never played more than 13 games in a season.

McFadden burst through the line for a 14-yard pickup on his first carry, outgaining his entire rushing production of 9 yards on 12 carries a game earlier. But something grabbed at his hammy shortly thereafter -- he left the game to get his leg wrapped and returned for a few plays, but his day was done.

He returned from the locker room at halftime in street clothes and watched the second half from the sidelines.

Jennings, meanwhile, became the Raiders’ bell cow running back.

“I thought he went in there and ran the ball hard,” Allen said. “I thought he did an admirable job of filling in for McFadden.”

It’s in the job description, no?

“As a player, period, in the NFL, you have the mindset that there aren’t any backups, we all believe that those are the guys sitting at home,” Jennings said. “Everybody that’s in this locker room is capable of going out and making plays. We’re accountable to go out there and make plays, and we always have the ‘next man up’ mentality.

“That’s kind of how we took it as a whole backfield.”

That’s how Jennings has to take it for the time being.

Paul Gutierrez

ESPN Oakland Raiders reporter

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