Dallas Cowboys: Time For Darren McFadden Debut


Perhaps the biggest thing to watch for this weekend is the debut of Dallas Cowboys running back Darren McFadden.

Acquired as a free-agent immediately following the departure of 2014 NFL rushing champion DeMarco Murray, Dallas has seen very little of the former star ball-carrier out of Arkansas. On Sunday evening at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, California, Cowboys Nation will finally get a good look as McFadden lines up against the San Francisco 49ers.

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It’s believed that McFadden is no longer the same back that took Fayetteville, Arkansas by storm from 2005-07. This is likely true, but Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones, an Arkansas alumnus, has rather high hopes for McFadden.

The reality here is that McFadden doesn’t have to be the same back who was drafted fourth-overall in the 2008 NFL Draft. The expectation, at least heading into the regular season, seems to be that he’ll be responsible for anywhere between thirty to forty percent of Dallas’ carries out of the backfield this season. That estimate could go either up or down depending on a few factors, but what exactly the Cowboys have in McFadden should be shown briefly on Sunday.

Apparent starter Joseph Randle continues to deal with a strained oblique (hip) muscle heading into the second preseason contest this weekend. It’s highly doubtful that he sees any action against the 49ers.

If this holds up, McFadden might not only play a few series, but he could actually start.

Yes, DMAC’s presence will be limited, but what he does will be watched closely by a fan base that’s getting a little uneasy about the running back position just two weeks shy of the season opener against the New York Giants.

Last week, it was youngsters Gus Johnson, undrafted out of Stephen F. Austin, and recently released Lache Seastrunk, a sixth-round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, that carried the load for a Dallas offense that didn’t do much at all with starting skill position players against the San Diego Chargers.

With the release of Seastrunk and Randle not likely to do much, it would sure seem that McFadden and Lance Dunbar could see some action over much of the first quarter or beyond.

But then comes word that Jones is concerned about the field conditions at still-new Levy Stadium.

Well, great field conditions and northern California are hardly ever synonymous, especially if the 49ers call that particular field home.

Then again, it’s usually late November and beyond that the winter rain in that region begins to turn most football fields into swamps during the most important time of the year.

So, how much action McFadden sees is a guess, but he should definitely play, at least according to Jones, who confirmed as much to DallasCowboys.com.

"Yes he will. And now I don’t want to imply that he’s going to play a lot because I don’t want to imply anybody’s going to play a lot. But you’ll see him up there. You’ll see him take some snaps."

It’s about time.

I’ll be watching to see how McFadden runs on his own accord. Does he still have some power and elusiveness for that 6’1” and 220 pound frame? This is a look very similar to what Murray brought to the table for Dallas from 2011-14.

A big thing is whether or not McFadden still possesses much of that acceleration that made him one of the top three most celebrated running backs to come out of college over the last 15 years.

No, it won’t be about the number of yards McFadden accumulates against the 49ers. It will be about what he looks like during the five to seven carries that I expect him to see.

Hopes for McFadden are modest where most of Cowboys Nation are concerned, but if McFadden still has enough of the juice that he once did, Murray – and possibly even Randle – could become a memory in a very short time.

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