After the first preseason game, we are still no closer to finding out just who will tote the rock for the Cowboys this season behind perhaps the NFL's best offensive line. A top-flight offensive line means there will be holes to run through, but as Nate Newton said on 'Cowboys Break' the other day - you still need a talented back to find those holes.
As of late, we have seen good things from Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar and the undrafted Gus Johnson, but nothing has been decided. In fact, club-favorite Joseph Randle is nursing an oblique injury that shouldn't sideline him too long. Lance Dunbar is due to return today from an ankle injury and Gus Johnson will now join the medical staff for an undetermined amount of time as he rehabs a separated AC joint from his preseason debut. The Cowboys also have some reps that have been given to second-year Lache Seastrunk, but so far he just runs to the beat of his own drum. That style may have worked for Seastrunk at Baylor but this is the NFL, where the bouncy-ball style doesn't help your case.
Starting with the upcoming practices, the Cowboys will finally get to determine the future of free-agent acquisition Darren McFadden. You know, the guy that set amazing records for the Arkansas Razorbacks but was shipped to Oakland in the first round where his scheme changed more times than a politician's mind? That Darren McFadden. Bryan Broaddus will attest that McFadden's best year may be ahead of him and that he is by far the most complete back on the roster. Both valid opinions that could be supported but the issue is that since he's been here McFadden has remained in shorts with the training staff. The old adage goes, you can't make the club from the tub. Sure, he's a veteran, but he's a veteran with issues. Those issues can be wiped away clean with a solid performance as the Cowboys' lead back.
The NFL has shown that a steady running game and good defensive play can bring you a championship. It's not the only way but it certainly was working for this team last season. The running game in the NFC is especially coming to the forefront once again. When you can run the ball effectively, teams have to respect that and therefore it opens your playbook up for even more success. The running attack helped the Dallas Cowboys in 2014, they saw their quarterback Tony Romo's have his best season with his first 1,000+ yard rusher. Their running game was led upfront by their juggernaut offensive line and made the entire team better. So, we have established how important it is for them to be successful running the football this season, it's imperative.
The offensive line is the reason that Stephen Jones and Will McClay have not been in any hurry to go and sign a veteran who may be worn down. They are fully aware that every running back wants to run behind this line but it's still too early to count out the guys that are here. That's why there is excitement for the camp debut of Darren McFadden. This team wants to ramp up it's competition at the running back position. Though it has been said many times how much the coaches want Joseph Randle to win the job, it doesn't change the fact that the competition factor is alive and well.
For McFadden, this is the time to show that he can still be the back that everyone believed he was. Oakland has had their issues but it was McFadden who allowed himself to get beat out by Latavius Murray. If Murray was able to average 5.2 yards per carry and McFadden couldn't, that's on McFadden, not Oakland. The hope is that this front office is not deluded in believing that they are getting the Razorback McFadden. He's got to become the best NFL version of Darren McFadden and leave the college days behind. This is it for him and he surely knows it. At 28 years old, when the season begins, he knows that he is at the magic number that statistics have shown the decline to creep in.
It's been the Joseph Randle show at training camp these past few weeks, but there are still three preseason exhibitions left. That's plenty of time for the Cowboys to figure this running back position out. If the front office is unsatisfied with the performance of their backs, they will pull the trigger on trade options or find a back that was cut from another team. With as many quality young backs that were drafted this year, a quality NFL starter could likely become available before too long. However, it's up to the guys on this roster to keep that from happening. Now is Darren McFadden's chance to prove he can play at a high-level. Can he unseat Joseph Randle? Who knows? At least he will finally get the opportunity to try. The only thing he cannot do is get hurt again. He doesn't have a history of hamstring injuries, which is a good sign.
Stephen Jones has said that they believed McFadden was ready to go a week ago but they wanted to make sure he was 110%. Don't be surprised if there is a friendly wager between the coaches and the Jones' on who will become the Cowboys "leader in the clubhouse." Is Run DMC's redemption campaign finally set to begin? It feels like we're all in the DMV. 'Now serving number 20; Darren McFadden. Number 20? You're up!