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Dallas Cowboys

Running Back Isn’t a Big Need

Jess Haynie

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Staff Blog - Staff Wars: Cowboys Must Stay With Darren McFadden

I seem to be in the minority when it comes to my analysis of the Cowboys’ running back position. All around me are people clamoring for a big free agent signing or a high draft pick, even the fourth overall, to add more ball-carrying talent. I’m not on the same page with most of you.

Let’s set the table with some facts, shall we?

  • Darren McFadden was the 4th-leading in the NFL last year, only 27 yards behind Todd Gurley at #3.
  • McFadden was a backup for one-third of the season, getting just about seven carries per game until taking over in Week 6.
  • As a team, the Cowboys had the 9th-best total rushing yardage and 5th-best yards-per-carry.
  • This strong rushing production came despite the absence of a passing threat in our offense.

Somehow, McFadden’s value is getting summarily dismissed.  Fans are overly focused on the shiny new cars on the lot and have, in my opinion, lost perspective on just much actual need there is at the position. Given Dallas’ issues throughout the roster, people need to take a step back and consider just where resources will be best spent.

Now I can buy some arguments against trusting McFadden. As a Raider his career was marked with strong years followed by injury-plagued ones. McFadden got more touches in 2015 than in any other season and turns 29 in August. There is legitimate cause for concern.

But where I see a need for some added insurance, others are wanting a total overhaul of a position. They perceive necessity where I’m seeing luxury.

Free Agency

Cowboys Headlines - Running Back Isn't a Big NeedI can understand the attractiveness of signing a guy like Miami’s Lamar Miller. He turns just 25 in April and has a skill set that seems to suit our offense well. But Miller will be one of the top two free agent running backs in next week’s market along with Doug Martin, driving his price way up. Is that money well spent?

Another name you hear a lot is Matt Forte from Chicago. He’s a year-and-a-half older than McFadden and wasn’t nearly as productive last year. Why is he an upgrade?

This isn’t to say Dallas doesn’t need free agents. I’d be all for adding someone like Alfred Morris or Bobby Rainey, guys who will come at a discount for the production they could offer if needed. I’d even be okay if Dallas wanted to bring back Robert Turbin for that role.

Where I can get on board is the notion that we have to upgrade from McFadden. He put up top-five production in two-thirds of the time. Cowboys game broadcasts are some of the highest-rated in the whole NFL, so how come nobody else saw it?

The Draft

The other big push for an upgrade is draft-focused, with some even suggesting Dallas should use their fourth-overall pick on a running back. No matter how much you like some of this year’s prospects, the history of highly-drafted running backs should concern you.

In the last ten years only Trent Richardson, Reggie Bush, and our own McFadden were taken in the top five. None of them ever lived up to that status.

If we expand to the Top 10 then the list includes Adrian Peterson, C.J. Spiller, and Todd Gurley. Peterson has certainly lived up and Gurley had a fantastic rookie year. But overall that’s just 33% success rate on running backs taken in the Top 10, and that’s only if we assume Gurley is going to remain a star player.

Cowboys Headlines - Running Back Isn't a Big Need 1You’re not wrong if you like what Ezekiel Elliott or some other top prospect offers. However, you have to look back at that list of disappointments and remember that they were all “future stars” at one point. The odds that one of these guys will be the next Adrian Peterson are far slimmer than draft hype and excitement lead you to believe.

To be fair, one reason for the low success rate is that the teams drafting guys in the Top 10 are usually not very good. They may not have the best offensive lines or passing games to allow these young runners to thrive. Dallas is in a unique position because Tony Romo‘s injury forced them down the standings despite having a solid infrastructure.

If top defensive prospects like Jalen Ramsey or Joey Bosa are taken in the top three then I can live with Dallas trading down to snag a running back in the first round. It would be the ultimate insurance policy against a down year for McFadden and set you up nicely for the future. But it certainly shouldn’t be “Plan A” for their draft approach given other roster needs.

Buyer Beware

Bottom line; McFadden isn’t getting the respect his 2015 performance deserves. Given our issues and needs on defense, we need to be careful how we spend cap space and use draft picks elsewhere. Luxuries are great when you can afford them, but Dallas isn’t all that luxurious right now.

“Buyer beware” is often said when it comes to the quality of the intended purchase but can also be said about the responsibility of the buyer. Desperation after a down year can lead to mistakes. New found financial flexibility can cause reversion to old habits, spending too much in the present without an eye on the future.

The Cowboys can’t go back to their old ways. Otherwise, you can plan on the same old results.

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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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5 Comments
  • http://www.pigskinhub.com/forum/index.php?forums/dallas-cowboys/ Jess Haynie

    I know this won't be the most popular opinion out there, especially with you in the #MillertoDallas club. So let's talk it out!

    Come at me, bros! 😉

  • http://PigskinHub.com Zac Fields

    I think with Lamar Miller, you're banking on potential and in fact you're actually going to end up paying for potential. He's durable, has a very solid career YPC. You'd be hoping that he could come to Dallas behind this offensive line and start cranking out 1,500-yard seasons (which is something he hasn't done yet).

    I can get on board with the idea that he could be good, but I think somebody is going to pay him $5+ million per season and I'm not sure I can get on board with that.

    I think McFadden teamed up with a drafted rookie would be perfect.

  • Corey

    Booker from University of Utah would be an excellent fit for the Cowboys.

  • http://PigskinHub.com Zac Fields

    Can we also just take a moment to appreciate the Darren McFadden signing from last year?

    When he was signed, there was an eye-roll all across Cowboys Nation because everyone thought "Oh, there goes that silly Jerry Jones again reaching for his Arkansas boys."

    Personally, I think it has turned out to be a brilliant signing. McFadden makes peanuts compared to what they'd have had to pay DeMarco Murray (DMC counted $1 million against the cap last year, $2 million this year) and if they had started him from Day One, he'd have easily had 1,400-1,500 yards last year. Even now, I don't think people appreciate enough how great of a signing that was.

    Like Jess says in his article, I think the Cowboys have a very RB-friendly offense right now with this offensive line. We just need a guy who can excel in a zone scheme, which really just means he has to be patient and be able to see the holes. I've brought up this comparison MANY times in the past, but look at the 90's (and early 2000's) Denver Broncos. Same zone scheme the Cowboys run today, and they just plugged guys in and ran their wheels off. I think they had 5-6 different 1,000 yard rushers.

    The Cowboys could be looking to emulate that. It certainly frees up your cap space for other positions.

  • Randy Martin

    You are spot on Jess. Thanks for the good read.

Dallas Cowboys

Can Cowboys Trust Guard Jonathan Cooper in 2018?

Jess Haynie

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Jonathan Cooper

One of the big decisions facing the Dallas Cowboys in the 2018 offseason is at left guard. Veteran Jonathan Cooper started 13 games last year and is now a free agent. Should Dallas bring Cooper back, or should they look elsewhere for next season’s starter?

With a lot of money already being spent on the rest of the starting offensive line, the Cowboys need a bargain at left guard. They didn’t re-sign Ronald Leary in 2017 for that very reason, hoping Cooper or Chaz Green would be able to handle the job for a fraction of what Leary got from the Denver Broncos.

Cooper took over for Green in Week 4 and held the job the rest of the season. The Cowboys rushing attack remained one of the league’s best, even performing well later in the year when Ezekiel Elliott was suspended. It looked like Jonathan could become part of future plans.

However, in Week 17, Cooper went out of the game with a knee injury. It thankfully wasn’t serious and he is expected to be ready for 2018. However, it was a reminder of the injury-plagued past that has caused the former first-round pick so much trouble.

Jonathan Cooper

Dallas Cowboys Guard Jonathan Cooper

Taken seventh overall in 2013 by the Arizona Cardinals, Jonathan Cooper was one of the true blue-chip guard prospects in recent draft history. He seemed like a can’t-miss pick, and interior linemen don’t often go that high in the draft. The Cowboys have even said they coveted Cooper in that class.

But constant battles with injuries caused Cooper to be traded, released, and discarded by the Cardinals, New England Patriots, and Cleveland Browns over his first four seasons. While 2017 was looking like a turning point for him, Jonathan’s injury in the season finale was a sobering reminder of why he’s become a bargain-bin player.

Still, at just 28-years-old, Cooper has good years left and will now have another offseason for continuity and chemistry development with the Cowboys.

Dallas should have to pay more than a few million to keep Cooper on the roster.

If Dallas is leery (no pun intended) of Cooper, they will have options. La’el Collins could move back to the guard position, allowing the Cowboys to go find either the best guard or tackle who would fit with their existing group.

Given so many other considerations this offseason, Dallas will likely try to simplify things by giving Jonathan Cooper another chance. His history is a red flag, but sometimes you have to take those gambles and save salary cap space to handle other needs.

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Orlando Scandrick Talks Cowboys’ Disappointing Season on FOX Sports

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys Headlines - Forget the Triplets: Cowboys Need The Underrated to Shine in 2016
Ashley Landis / The Dallas Morning News

For better or worse, the Cowboys don’t even need to play football to be all over national TV. I guess it’s just part of being the one and only America’s Team. For the second consecutive week, Fox Sports had a Dallas Cowboys’ player on set for Fox’s “Undisputed.”

Just a week ago, Brice Butler made waves with some controversial comments that failed to make him look like a “great teammate.”

This time, Fox’s guest was Cowboys’ Cornerback Orlando Scandrick. Unlike Butler, I really think we should give Scandrick credit for being a very good teammate, and acting like one on his TV appearance.

Throughout the segment, it feels as if Orlando is being tricked into saying something against his teammates. Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe start bashing on Dez Bryant‘s performance and the fact that he should be replaced.

Of course, this is the kind of stuff fans in Cowboys Nation are thinking about. Heck, I really wouldn’t even mind if Dez isn’t wearing a star next season. However, I really disliked Butler’s comments when asked if he would’ve done a better job if given the same opportunities as Dez.

Scandrick’s responses were awesome though. When asked if he would defend Dez, he didn’t even hesitate.

“I don’t think he’s lost any confidence. He’s one of the most confident players I’ve ever been around. I think it can all be fixed. I think he just needs to get back to work and get back to the basics.” – Orlando Scandrick on Dez Bryant.

Scandrick also answered questions about what went wrong with the Cowboys this season by pointing out the fact they lost one of their best players because of a suspension, and some injuries. But he also said what’s been in our minds for a long time. When asked what was the biggest reason they struggled, he said some painful, yet truthful words: “We played some bad football against some very good teams.”

Later, he was asked about how Sean Lee’s absence affected the defense, he insisted they didn’t step up. At the end of the day, the NFL is a league in which you can’t be that dependent on a single player.

Sean Lee is an awesome player, but I think we’d all like to see this defense be a little less dependent on him.

Scandrick even had to defend Dak Prescott.

Dak was highly criticized after a sophomore season in which he struggled, alongside the entire team. But in the words of Orlando, we should “give him time.” Dak had a lot on his plate, but he made a lot of progress for the Cowboys.

You can listen to the entire interview here.

Orlando Scandrick’s time in Dallas may be coming to an end, especially with young guys like Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis taking over. He’s signed through 2019, so who knows; maybe we see him wearing the star for a bit longer.

“It’s always a possibility.” – Orlando Scandrick on potentially not returning to Dallas next season.

Even still, it’s nice to see him support his football team and his friends on a show which featured a non-starting Cowboys’ wide receiver taking shots against his team. Orlando Scandrick deserves an applause.

Tell me what you think about “Orlando Scandrick Talks Cowboys’ Disappointing Season on FOX Sports” in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 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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Dallas Cowboys

Should Cowboys Pursue Veteran Backup at Quarterback?

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys en Español: Cooper Rush
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys only have two quarterbacks under contract right now, starter Dak Prescott and backup Cooper Rush. With only three years of combined experience between them, one could argue that a veteran presence would be useful. Should Dallas make a veteran QB a free-agent priority in the 2018 offseason?

Of course, there’s plenty of other QB experience on the Cowboys staff. Head Coach Jason Garrett played professionally from 1989-2004, and started his coaching career with quarterbacks.

Scott Linehan has been coaching offense with an emphasis on the passing game for 30 years.

Kellen Moore, who is taking over for the departed Wade Wilson as quarterbacks coach, has played very recently and will bring a fresh perspective.

However, losing Wilson’s experience from the room, and the lack of any veteran player at QB, shouldn’t be dismissed.

Dak Prescott has said veteran Mark Sanchez — who was with Dallas in 2016 — was a major help during his whirlwind rookie season. Tony Romo enjoyed veteran advice from guys like Brad Johnson, Jon Kitna, and Kyle Orton throughout his playing career.

This isn’t to say Dallas would want to bring in a veteran to knock Cooper Rush down the depth chart. After a surprising preseason, Rush took the backup job from Kellen Moore and certainly has intriguing upside.

If the Cowboys were to add a veteran, that player would have to come in with the understanding he’s competing with Cooper and may not be guaranteed a job.

The good news is that it’ll be a buyer’s market for veteran quarterbacks this offseason.

Guys like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown, and Matt Moore could all be available. Even a player with more pedigree, such as Sam Bradford, may have trouble finding starting work with many jobs taken among the NFL’s 32 teams.

Dallas could even consider bringing back Mark Sanchez, given his previous relationship with Dak Prescott. He only had a one-year deal with the Chicago Bears.

Given Prescott’s seeming durability, Dallas will likely only keep two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster in 2018 and for years to come. Because of that, they may be content to focus on Dak and Cooper Rush, and just get through the offseason with training camp bodies.

However, the case can certainly be made for adding another veteran player with the desire to teach to help these young quarterbacks develop. Prescott was not the same guy in 2017 that we saw as a rookie, and perhaps the absence of guys like Sanchez and Tony on the sideline had something to do with that.

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