He was once the fourth overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, but Darren McFadden has only turned in first round type numbers once in his professional career. That was in 2010 when he eclipsed the 1,000 yard barrier for the only time in his career. Take away that 1,157 yard season and McFadden is pretty pedestrian as a professional running back. There is nothing to suggest that he gained over 4,500 yards in three seasons at the University of Arkansas or that he was a consensus All American selection in both 2006 and 2007. In short, Darren's career has not lived up to what was expected of him.
It is easy to put the blame on the player, we often do. The question we must ask ourselves though is "What help did he get with the Oakland Raiders?" The answer is not very much The truth is that McFadden played for a team that averaged just over five wins per season during his time with them and the best two seasons during his career were 8-8 marks in 2010 and 2011. Coincidentally those two mediocre seasons correspond with two of Darren's best statistical years. This would seem to indicate that his output is going to be largely impacted by those around him, just as it would for any other player.
That bodes well for the Dallas Cowboys. The team has the tools to put on the field around McFadden that would allow him to be a cog in the machine instead of the entire apparatus, a highly different role than he was expected to play for the silver and black. As a Cowboy he will be paired with a high-level quarterback and a full complement of receivers to carry a large share of the offensive arsenal and perhaps the league's finest offensive line to open holes for him to run through. These are things that have long been missing from the teams he has played for.
Nobody expects McFadden to do the things he could do as a 23-year-old running back, but it is reasonable to expect him to carry a large share of the load. He is now 28. Time and the game have worn his body down. He has a history of leg, ankle and foot injuries and has never played a full season in the league. It is unlikely that he will break that trend this year, but with the benefit of improved blocking up front, McFadden will hopefully not be subjected to as much abuse as he has taken in the past. He is also reported to be in the best shape of his career.
"We really think Darren's in the best shape of his career. He looks great out there. We really think that you put him behind our offensive line and he has some luck and stays healthy, we might really have something here." - Stephen Jones
The Cowboys feel that by using McFadden as part of a running back by committee arrangement, that the committee will be more explosive and more dynamic than they would by giving opponents a single feature back to key in on. Not having to be the bell cow will be a nice change of pace for Darren and will allow him to minimize the impact of the 2015 season on his body. He will be able to do what he does best. Not even the most optimistic of fans of fans feel that he is the long-term answer in the Cowboys backfield, but given a partial share of the workload and the benefit of top notch run blocking should allow him to once again show flashes of the back who once electrified Razorback fans on Saturday afternoons.