Darren McFadden: Time for Cowboys to unleash Run DMC
If the loss of running back DeMarco Murray by the Dallas Cowboys this offseason is comparable to a gushing wound, than the signing of veteran Darren McFadden afterwards was the equivalent of a band-aid. Questions immediately arose about McFadden’s infamous injury history and lack of production following his meteoric rise to fame as one of the sharpest Razorbacks ever to come out of Arkansas.
Still, there was at least a semblance of hope that the 28-year old could regain his collegiate form in some capacity behind a stout Cowboys offensive line. But a month into the regular season and Dallas still haven’t given McFadden enough carries to really test out that theory. Is it time the Cowboys finally unleashed Run DMC? I believe so.
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During the first vestiges of the offseason workout programs, McFadden impressed with his speed and cutting ability. Audible sounds of satisfaction could be heard from onlookers at the potential this rejuvenated veteran displayed behind the Cowboys young and talented offensive line. It was the potential to resurrect a lost career.
A seven-year career with the Oakland Raiders, in fact. One full of disappointment and unfulfilled expectations. As the fourth overall selection in the 2008 NFL Draft, McFadden was expected to become the Silver and Black‘s savior. Instead, he simply became another in a long list of underperforming high draft picks for the declining organization. In his seven years in Oakland, McFadden missed a total of 29 games due to injury. In that same span, the running back gained over 1,000 rushing yards in a single season only once (2010).
But the Cowboys were encouraged by the fact McFadden had played in all 16 games in 2014, even though it was his first time to do so as a professional. A self-proclaimed fan of America’s Team, the veteran’s enthusiasm to play in Dallas was refreshing. Especially coming off the disappointment of Murray signing with the Cowboys divisional rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles. But still questions lingered.
Those questions continued through the rest of this offseason and through training camp as McFadden struggled with two separate hamstring injuries. Those issues kept the first-year Cowboy off-the-field, causing him to miss valuable opportunities to acclimate to his new environment. And maybe more importantly, win the trust of this Cowboys coaching staff.
After seven total rushing attempts in the preseason, McFadden entered the 2015 regular season firmly stuck behind third-year back Joseph Randle on the depth chart. Running back Lance Dunbar also stole carries from the veteran as the Cowboys main receiving threat out of the backfield.
Through Week Four, McFadden has recorded a total of 113 rushing yards and one touchdown while averaging eight carries a game. His 3.5 yards per carry average isn’t very impressive, but it is his highest since 2011.
Fortunately, the Cowboys have displayed a certain level of trust in the veteran runner, giving him the bulk of the carries late in games. And at times, he’s been impressive. Although, I get the sense his sporadic usage doesn’t allow him to get a proper rhythm going. But with his injury history, no one can blame the Cowboys coaching staff for being overly cautious.
But Dallas needs to throw that caution to the wind on Sunday against the New England Patriots. The Pats rank dead last in the league this season against the rush, allowing 4.9 yards per carry to opposing running backs. With Dunbar now on the Injured Reserve list and Randle seemingly in the coach’s doghouse for making boneheaded fumbles at the goal line, this could be the perfect time for McFadden to finally spread his wings. In order to do so, Dallas is going to have to give Darren more than eight carries a game. It’s finally time to unleash Run DMC in Dallas.
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