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Cowboys Being Tough, But Fair, With Darren McFadden

Jess Haynie

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Darren McFadden

The November 1st trade deadline came and went in the NFL, and yet running back Darren McFadden is still with the Dallas Cowboys. Given where the team is with the RB position, you have to wonder what their thought process is in how they're dealing with McFadden this season.

Cowboys Headlines - 3 Surprising Cowboys That Could Benefit From Darren McFadden's Injury 1McFadden started the season on the Non-Football Injury list because of an elbow fracture suffered on his personal time. That injury has allowed Dallas to hang on to McFadden without having to use a roster spot. They can continue to do so until after Week 11, at which point they must either release McFadden or place him on Injured Reserve.

By the normal medical timetable, Darren McFadden should be healed from the elbow injury. By his own recent comments to media, he's healthy and ready to play.

So why isn't he?

The Cowboys all but moved on from McFadden during the last offseason. Drafting Ezekiel Elliott in the first round and signing veteran Alfred Morris seemed to be the death knells for McFadden's time in Dallas.

What's more, the Cowboys stocked up the depth chart. They re-signed Lance Dunbar with the hope that he would serve in a specialist role. They also added Darius Jackson in the sixth round of last April's draft and brought back reserve prospect Rod Smith.

Despite these moves, Dallas held on to McFadden after the draft. His elbow injury occurred in late May. Had he been healthy, it's highly probable that he would have been traded or released sometime before the start of the regular season.

Cowboys Headlines - Will Darren McFadden's Injury Cost Him His Job? 1Essentially, the Cowboys have used McFadden's injury to turn him into an 11-week insurance plan at running back. If something happens to Elliott or Morris, they can active McFadden and still feel solid about their rushing attack. They could still keep him even if those two are healthy, releasing Dunbar, Jackson, or Smith to make room.

The Cowboys are holding Darren McFadden to every bit of his two-year contract. They are using the injury rules to their benefit and doing what's best for the organization.

Is it harsh to McFadden? Probably, but you can't say it's unfair. He wouldn't even have value in 2016 if not for the Cowboys kindness a year ago.

Dallas pulled McFadden off the NFL scrap heap and, with their elite offensive line, turned him into the fourth-leading rusher in 2015. McFadden was an afterthought in free agency that year, and perhaps only found work thanks to being a former Arkansas Razorback like Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

Nobody would blame McFadden if he's disappointed at not getting a chance this year with another team. However, you also can't blame the Cowboys for feeling that McFadden owes them, rather than the other way around.

Cowboys Headlines - Will the Cowboys Find a Role for Darren McFadden?There are three games left until Dallas has to either activate McFadden, release him, or place him on Injured Reserve. There will be somewhere around 90-100 carries by running backs during that time, so more than few opportunities for the door to open for him to find a role with the team.

And again, McFadden could end up being the number-three back. Dallas just might extend that insurance policy right on through the end of the season.

Give credit to Darren McFadden for not making this more difficult for Dallas. Unhappy NFL players have their ways of making teams pay for their displeasure. Other than a couple of small remarks on social media, McFadden hasn't been openly resentful or rebellious to the Cowboys' decisions.

Usually, the cold business side of the NFL comes when players are released from contracts. It's less common for it to be when a guy is being held to one, but they are called "contracts" for a reason.

Even if we never see Darren McFadden in a Cowboys jersey in 2016, he has certainly been an intriguing figure this season. In a few more weeks, we may finally get the end of the story.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Randy Martin

    November 3, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see them activate him and put Mo on IR. Of course that depends on the severity of his injury. But nonetheless if they activate him someone is going to IR. I think they are just keeping their options open. The odd thing is there were articles before the trade deadline indicating they “were open to a trade.” So was that yet more media inaccuracy or speculation or did they good up by forgetting to activate him? I think it was all media irresponsibility. I think Dallas definitely wants to see Claiborne back on the field sooner rather than later so probably waiting to see if he is going to need surgery before making a decision.

    • Jess Haynie

      Jess Haynie

      November 3, 2016 at 11:35 pm

      Somebody going to IR is certainly another avenue for DMC to return, but I don’t see it being Claiborne. His injury isn’t expected to keep him out even for the rest of the regular season, let alone a playoff run. They’ll carry Mo as a gameday inactive for as long as they have to.

      However. to your point, McFadden’s most-likely road to a return is if someone were to get hurt at RB.

  2. Mike

    November 3, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    WHAT social media comments?

    • Jess Haynie

      Jess Haynie

      November 3, 2016 at 11:28 pm

      Saying that he was healthy while the team still had him on injury lists, which could have prompted investigation and problems with the league.

  3. Mike

    November 4, 2016 at 10:47 am

    What did you want him to do? Lie? He’s been healthy since week 2! He didn’t post it anyway. He answered reporter questions.

  4. Chuck Harold

    November 7, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    DMC should be the Cowboys’ #2 RB–if he is fully healed. He proved his abilities last year and has breakaway speed far superior to Morris’s. I suspect the team is holding on to him in case one of the current RBs go down, which is always a possibility.

  5. Joe

    November 10, 2016 at 9:36 am

    Thanks for the insight. I read somewhere that they are paying him his full salary, even though they are not required to. If true, this would certainly be a nice way to offset DMC’s concern about staying on NFI / not being traded. Thanks!

  6. Patrick Robinson

    November 17, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    I would love for Darren to back up zee than morris

    • Bryson Treece

      Bryson Treece

      November 17, 2016 at 7:59 pm

      @Patrick Robinson – Damn, thought I was the only one. Morris looked good in PS but hasn’t since, especially not after the Giants game.

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Leighton Vander Esch To Top Rookie Season With Pro Bowl Trip

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Next Day Rant: Cowboys Drafting LB Vander Esch Looks Pretty Smart Now

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.

https://twitter.com/dallascowboys/status/1085291591399546880?s=21

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.

Tell me what you think about "Leighton Vander Esch To Top Rookie Season With Pro Bowl Trip" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Cowboys Expect C Travis Frederick Back for Offseason Program

Jess Haynie

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Travis Frederick

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.

Rob Phillips on Twitter

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.



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For Cowboys to Beat the Rams, Dak Prescott must Lead the Way

John Williams

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Playoff Scenarios Aim Towards Seahawks vs Cowboys in Wild Card

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.

NFL Research on Twitter

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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