It's been almost a year since the reigning Rushing Champion and Offensive Player of the Year, DeMarco Murray, took his talents to the City of Brotherly Love.
In last year's NFL Draft it was widespread general common sense that the Dallas Cowboys would find their replacement for Murray... only for them to leave the war room with no new Running Backs.
The Cowboys opted to entrust the keys to their all-pro Offensive Line-shaped Corvette to the shared backfield of Joseph Randle and free-agent-signee Darren McFadden. All offseason long fans near and far speculated as to which one of these dudes was going to be featured more prominently throughout the 2015 season.
The glass slipper seemed to fit the foot of Joseph Randle as he was put in the driver's seat first. Randle squandered that opportunity pretty quickly as he was released by the team not even two months into the season.
Despite a ton of rumors that Christine Michael (who the Cowboys acquired in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks in the eleventh hour of the preseason) would step in as the lead ballcarrier, Darren McFadden was finally given a significant amount of work during a Week 7 game on October 25th in New York against the Giants after being used sparingly up to that point.
For time's sake I'm going to refer to the time in the season from the Giants game on as Post-DMC. Got it? Good.
A poetic 29 carries for 152 yards and a touchdown against the Giants that day was where Darren McFadden began his 2015 journey that would find him finishing:
- 4th in Rushing Yards with 1,089 (960 of those, or 88.2%, came Post-DMC)
- 8th in Rushing Attempts with 239 (202, or 85%, of McFadden's attempts came Post-DMC)
- 10th in Rushing Yards Per Game with a credited 68.1 (McFadden averaged 87.3 Post-DMC which would actually be good enough for third behind only Adrian Peterson and Doug Martin)
- 9th in Yards From Scrimmage with 1,417 (1,186, or 83.7%, came Post-DMC & McFadden is the fourth Running Back on this list behind only Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin, and Devonta Freeman)
- 6th in Touches with 280 (231, or 82.5%, came Post-DMC)
That sounds pretty amazing, doesn't it? Here are McFadden's numbers from his 2014 season in Oakland where he played all 16 games versus his Post-DMC numbers over 11 games in Dallas this past season.
|Rushing Yards||534||960||426 - 79.78% increase|
|Rushing Attempts||155||202||47 - 30.32% increase|
|Rushing Yards/Game||33.4||87.3||53.9 - 161.38% increase|
|Yards From Scrimmage||746||1,186||440 - 58.98% increase|
|Touches||192||231||39 - 20.31% increase|
Let's put that in perspective.
With 20.31% more touches, specifically 30.32% more carries, Darren McFadden had 58.98% more yards from scrimmage, 79.78% more rushing yards, and 161.38% more rushing yards per game.
Well look at that.
He was on the Cowboys this year! They were so much better than that terrible Raiders team!
The 2015 Dallas Cowboys went 4-12... the 2014 Oakland Raiders went 3-13. So it's not like DMC's team was on fire either year here.
Also, remember all of that "Post-DMC" stuff from earlier? In the "Post-DMC" time McFadden played just a little over a game and a half with Tony Romo under center and only seven games with Dez Bryant as a receiving threat. Defenses knew McFadden was getting the ball and he still delivered.
Not to mention that the 2014 Raiders had the 31st offense in the NFL according to Pro Football Reference. That same site graded the 2015 Dallas Cowboys as having the 31st offense in the NFL. Weird, isn't it?
All of this fact and data can only mean one thing.
Anyone can run behind this offensive line.
As soon as Darren McFadden stepped into the featured back role in Dallas he blossomed - the numbers back that up.
What was once a joke, point of pride, and viral internet meme came to fruition for the Dallas Cowboys in 2015. Behind the services of Tyron Smith, the newly acquired La'el Collins, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and Doug Free... any average Running Back can munch all of the meat off of the proverbial bone.
There are Darren McFadden truthers out there who might point to his absurd increase in production as a testament to his own skill and valor. I'm not at all denying that Darren McFadden is a fine ballcarrier who can contribute significantly to a football team... but let's call a spade a spade here. Darren McFadden isn't anything fancy.
In fact at this point Darren McFadden probably has less overall talent than the guy that he replaced - DeMarco Murray. Yet, thanks to whatever excuse Eagles fans are using today, DeMarco's numbers dropped off significantly in 2015. Why is that? He's driving a station wagon and McFadden is rolling around in this Corvette.
The Dallas Cowboys absolutely need to address the Running Back position, while retaining Darren McFadden, throughout the offseason. They can't start drinking the Kool-Aid that I just poured for you... too much of the upcoming season centers around their ability to run the ball and it being a strength for them.
What they can do is rest easy that this offensive line is absurdly talented and know that, despite a 4-12 season when everything felt like it was broken and falling apart, this part of the team is very well intact.
Who wants to drive the Corvette next?
Leighton Vander Esch To Top Rookie Season With Pro Bowl Trip
Dallas Cowboys' rookie Leighton Vander Esch has done enough to prove every single doubter wrong. When Roger Goodell called his name during the 2018 NFL Draft in Arlington, Texas, many in Cowboys Nation rejoiced at the thought of having a young linebacker for a defense surrounded with uncertainty. However, many analysts doubted the draft pick. For a lot of people (sadly, I include myself in this category), the pick should've been used on another player. For most, despite acknowledging his raw talent, Vander Esch wouldn't be able to provide the Cowboys with an instant impact player. Ah, well.
After a remarkable season, Vander Esch (a.k.a. Wolf Hunter) has earned a spot on this season's second-team All-Pro. When the Pro Bowl voting began, Vander Esch was snubbed from the ballot itself. It didn't took the NFL long to realize their mistake and add the Cowboys' linebacker to the list. Despite missing the cut at first, Vander Esch will be heading to Orlando to play in this year's Pro Bowl on January 27th.
The former Boise State Bronco will be replacing Carolina Panthers' LB Luke Kuechly, who won't be participating because of an injury.
Vander Esch racked up 140 tackles (per Pro Football Reference), ranking third in the league in this category. He finished the season as the fifth best linebacker in Pro Football Focus' rankings.
But numbers aren't really enough to fully appreciate what Vander Esch did for the Dallas Cowboys. A team that was used to seeing its defense break when veteran Sean Lee went down injured, did not only get someone to fill in for Lee. Vander Esch actually upgraded the Cowboys' defense. It didn't matter where the ball went, he was always around when opponents were tackled. His speed and chance of direction allowed him to run sideline to sideline, covering a huge portion of the field.
Along Jaylon Smith, Dallas managed to have one of the best linebacker duos in the NFL.
The last time a defensive rookie from the Cowboys went to the Pro Bowl was in 1981, when Everson Walls made the team. Vander Esch is the 11th rookie in team history to be selected to the Pro Bowl. This year, the rookie will be accompanied by DeMarcus Lawrence, Byron Jones, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Ezekiel Elliott.
Cowboys Expect C Travis Frederick Back for Offseason Program
Lost in yesterday's hoopla over Scott Linehan's return was a positive report about Center Travis Frederick. In his comments to the media, Jason Garrett said that Frederick's recovery timetable should allow him to a full participant in the team's offseason program.
After never missing a start in his first five years, Travis missed all of 2018 dealing with the effects of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The disease attacked his neurological system and required immediate and intensive treatment.
Jason Garrett says the team anticipates Travis Frederick being involved in the offseason program right from the start this spring if he continues on the same positive track in recovery from Guillain-Barré syndrome. #cowboyswire
While Joe Looney performed admirably in Frederick's absence, he's not an elite talent. Travis has been arguably the best center in the NFL since entering the league in 2013.
It's hard to qualify what effect not having Frederick had on the Cowboys offense in 2018. Ezekiel Elliott still led the league in rushing, but short-yardage plays weren't as automatic as we've seen in past years. A 4th-and-1 stuff was part of what led to the Cowboys' loss this past Saturday.
Dak Prescott was the second-most sacked QB in the NFL in 2018. After being sacked just 25 and 32 times in his first two seasons, the number skyrocketed to 56 sacks.
That's not all on Frederick, of course. Tyron Smith had some health issues and there were was turnover at left guard.
But having your All-Pro veteran center out there to help with the pre-snap reads, and help the rookie guard on his left, might have helped avoid some of those issues.
Indeed, Travis Frederick's return is just one of many reasons for optimism with the 2019 season. One of the best players on the team, he was sorely missed this year and can only help as Dallas looks to build on their division title and playoff appearance.
For Cowboys to Beat the Rams, Dak Prescott must Lead the Way
In the NFL wins and losses often come down to quarterback play. That isn't to say that if a team wins, it was all because of the quarterback and inversely, if a team loses that it was all on the quarterback. Teams win or lose games. Generally speaking, however, the quarterback has the highest amount of influence on the outcome of an NFL game. This will be no different for the Dallas Cowboys this Saturday when they take on the Los Angeles Rams in the LA Coliseum. For America's Team to make their first trip to the NFC Championship Game since 1996, Dak Prescott has to have a good game.
This looks to be a good matchup for the Dallas Cowboys offense, which should allow Dak Prescott and the Cowboys to take advantage in certain areas.
A few Rams Passing Game Notes
- The Los Angeles Rams were middle of the pack against the pass this season, allowing the 14th fewest passing yards in the league this season.
- The Rams allowed 7.7 yards per attempt. Dak Prescott is averaging 7.6 yards per attempt since week 10 of the season.
- The Rams allowed the eighth most passing touchdowns in the NFL this season. They and the New Orleans Saints are the only teams in the top 10 of passing touchdowns allowed in the playoffs this season.
- The Rams were 15th in the NFL in sacks, with 41, but Aaron Donald accounted for half of that with 20.5 sacks on the season. No other player had more than five sacks.
- They were third in the NFL in interceptions, collecting 18.
- The Rams allowed the ninth highest yards per completion on the season at 11.8. So on average, every completion went for a first down.
Dak Prescott is playing as well as any quarterback in the playoffs at the moment. Over the last nine games, he's averaging 272 passing yards, two total touchdowns, was only intercepted four times, and was sacked on average 3.2 times per game.
On Saturday night, we saw Scott Linehan put the ball in his hands on a couple designed runs that nearly scored touchdowns. It was an excellent addition to the offense that could help fix the Cowboys red zone woes. Getting Dak Prescott running on some designed runs or quarterback draws could help slow down Aaron Donald and the pass rush.
The Cowboys needed every bit of Dak Prescott magic to overcome a stingy Seattle Seahawks defense in their Wild Card win and they'll need him to step up again this week against the Rams. Every team is going to attempt to take away the running game to make Dak beat you and as he continues to mature, he's getting more and more comfortable doing that. He's comfortable with the big stage and the big moments.
Dak Prescott Since 2016, including playoffs * 15 game-winning drives (Most in NFL) * 13 primetime QB wins (Most in NFL) * 19 rush TD (Most in NFL by QB) #DallasCowboys @dak
No Quarterback in the NFL has more game winning drives, rushing touchdowns, or wins in primetime than Dak Prescott. When we talk about Dak Prescott, we talk a lot about the things that he can't do as a passer and deservedly so, he still has some growing to do in that area, but in the things that you can't objectively quantify -- mental toughness, resiliency, clutchness, will, determination -- Dak is one of the best in the NFL. He's as mentally tough as they come in the NFL and he doesn't let the spotlight or the game situation phase him. He has that stuff that's hard to put your finger on.
The Dallas Cowboys will need more of that on Saturday night in Los Angeles. The Rams can score and can score in bunches and if the Cowboys defense starts sluggish or has an off night, they'll need Dak Prescott to keep them in the game. Even if the defense has a good game, Dak still has to come through in the passing game and on the ground to give the Cowboys a chance to pull off the upset.
The Dallas Cowboys are going to try to run the ball against the Rams on Saturday. That's their identity; run the ball, control the clock, and be efficient in the passing game. Prescott, either with his legs or with his arm will have to make some plays to extend drives and keep the Rams offense on the sideline. He'll need to be sharp in the red zone to convert those opportunities into touchdowns. Settling for field goals against the Rams is how the Cowboys get beat.
This matchup with the Rams looks to set up nicely for Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys, yet how things look on paper doesn't mean much when the lights go on and the whistle blows. It's a big stage and it's another win-or-go-home game for the Cowboys (like every game has been over the last nine weeks). In a big game, you need big time players, and the Cowboys have one in quarterback Dak Prescott.
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