Cowboys: RB Darren McFadden Should Start


If Saturday night’s preseason game between the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings was a dress rehearsal, running back Darren McFadden has emerged as the top running back out of training camp.

You’ve been hearing about him for awhile now. His name trickling in and out of the headlines and more often via Dallas-Ft. Worth radio station phone calls. He’s been a constant source of conversation at limitless sports websites and blogs.

Dallas Cowboys running back Darren McFadden arrived at Valley Ranch under some urgent circumstances. His pursuit gained virtually no fanfare, but mainly because there wasn’t enough time for that to happen.

The day after ex-Cowboys runner DeMarco Murray made a dash for the cash in Philadelphia, Dallas owner and general manager Jerry Jones was ready to introduce introduce McFadden as the most recent addition to the team.

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I thought this was a good call back then, and I still think that it is.

Over the last several months, arguably the biggest question surrounding the Cowboys was who exactly would take over for Murray in the starting backfield. While that question is still unanswered, it probably should be following the third preseason game for America’s Team.

Joseph Randle has been the assumed starter for the Cowboys at running back for 2015 – although I really don’t know why.

Randle has looked alright this preseason, although his pass protection leaves much to be desired. The third-year veteran out of Oklahoma State has done nothing to stake his claim as the best running back over the course of the preseason. His poor pass protection on the first offensive possession for the Cowboys would have allowed a sack of quarterback Tony Romo if not for a penalty against Minnesota – Romo still ended up being hit.

It took McFadden just four carries against the Vikings to reach 37 yards – that’s a 9.2 yard per carry average. His longest carry went for 15 yards.

Can you guess the only other Cowboys offensive player to match that preseason long of 15 yards?

Fourth-string quarterback Jameill Showers, an undrafted rookie out of UTEP.

Randle missed the preseason opener with a strained hip muscle. In two games thereafter, Randle has rushed for 45 yards on 13 carries – that’s an average of just 3.4 yards per carry.

Is it possible that Randle’s gaudy YPG last season (6.7) was primarily because he generally ran against smaller defensive fronts and also in more passing situations where opposing defenses might have been a bit more generous?

I think so.

A couple of months ago, Bob Sturm of the Dallas Morning News offered a solid argument against McFadden as an answer to Murray’s departure. The reasoning is pretty strong, takeaway the fact that it’s only a reflection of McFadden’s efforts while running wirthin numerous Oakland Raiders offenses that were just plain bad.

In Dallas, things look a bit different, especially when you consider the profound difference between the Raiders offensive line and the multi-Pro Bowl counterpart blocking for the Cowboys. The difference between Romo and everybody the Raiders lined up under center during McFadden’s time there speaks for itself.

McFadden looks like a runner who’s in a different league than Randle. This is not to say that the latter can’t contribute with the football, but the former simply has the experience and, when healthy, seems to still have starting talent.

In July, well before training camp started, I wrote at The Landry Hat that McFadden would be starting for the Cowboys when all is said and done. Those squared shoulders and explosive cuts seen against the Vikings actually remind me of Murray himself, both of those backs sporting very similar builds and styles. I can’t say with certainty that McFadden might not be better than Murray was in Dallas, although his ability to stay healthy is easily the biggest question.

I don’t know that my prediction will come true, but I do think that, despite the small sample size of McFadden’s ability this preseason, that the former Arkansas Razorback superstar will end up behind Romo when the Cowboys line up against the New York Giants on the evening of September 13 in Arlington.

Next: Cowboys: 10 Questions That Need Answers

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