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What Darren McFadden’s Activation Could Mean to the Cowboys’ Backfield

Sean Martin

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Cowboys Blog - Darren McFadden, 2015 Bright Spots

Cowboys' running back Lance Dunbar saw a season-high 19 snaps against the Giants on Sunday night in Dallas' dreadful offensive performance. Like his teammates around him, he did little with these opportunities, most notably being out there on the final desperation drive instead of Ezekiel Elliott - as the Cowboys went on to gain not a single yard.

On an expiring contract, Dallas has not gotten much out of the once-explosive Dunbar. His status with the team could now be in jeopardy, as Jerry Jones told the media after the loss that he expects Darren McFadden to be moved to the active roster ahead of another Sunday Night Football match up with Tampa Bay.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Jerry Jones said Darren McFadden will be moved to the active roster this week. Also said Lucky Whitehead will play against Tampa Bay

Jones, a long-time fan of his fellow Arkansas Razorback in McFadden, announced a few weeks ago that the team would activate the veteran running back. With no setbacks over the past three weeks, the time for a decision on McFadden has come, and that decision could be bad news for Dunbar.

Ezekiel Elliott is clearly the engine that drives the Cowboys offense, and that engine has sputtered these past few weeks. This most recent offensive inefficiency has little to do with Zeke, as he touched the ball just eight times in the second half in New York.

Perhaps too focused on saving their rookie workhorse for the playoffs, the Cowboys now need a reliable runner to get meaningful snaps. While Dunbar has been anything but that, McFadden proved in 2015 that he can gain yards with a bunch of quarterbacks that shouldn't be mentioned in the same breath as Dak Prescott Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, and then Kellen Moore.

Cowboys Headlines - Could Darren McFadden Take Lance Dunbar's Job?

(AP Photo/James D Smith) Darren McFadden (center) and Lance Dunbar (right)

Way back in the summer days of training camp, before McFadden's injury, the competition at RB2 was believed to be between Alfred Morris and McFadden. When Morris was handed the keys to this job, he initially started off strong, but has carried the ball just four times over his last four games - with no carries last night - for a total of 26 yards.

A healthy Darren McFadden could really help the Cowboys down the stretch right now. They are built on their running game, and the depth at running back shows that pretty clearly. With four RBs and a FB in Keith Smith on the roster, it is time to get something out of a back not named Elliott.

As opposed to giving them something, Lance Dunbar has given the Cowboys virtually nothing. His chances may have ran out.

The Cowboys are off and running towards the playoffs, and this most recent setback against the Giants could mean we'll see a lot more of #20 running - with no #25 in sight.

What do you think of Darren McFadden joining the Cowboys' backfield, and do you think it means the end for Lance Dunbar? Let us know! Please use the comment section below to discuss, or email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com!

Tell us what you think about "What Darren McFadden’s Activation Could Mean to the Cowboys’ Backfield" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Bryson Treece

    Bryson Treece

    December 12, 2016 at 11:09 am

    I’d be just fine with that. I’m not a fan of Dunbar. It’s not about just about him, but how this team seems hellbent on using him. One dimensional players, or players that make an aspect of the team one dimensional, are a gift to defenses. McFadden can at least run the ball, which may be more than we can say about Alfred Morris; that guy is just struggling this year.

    • Sean Martin

      December 12, 2016 at 11:54 am

      They need a guy that can just run the ball right now. Run it out of “11” too, so they’ll be no need to put 25 on the field as a pass catcher. Really think McFadden is going to have an important say on how the rest of this season plays out.

  2. Rod

    December 12, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    Dallas need fresh legs and DMAC will help the running back system better. Dallas Cowboys need to be similar to 2006 and 2007 as DMAC and Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis so It will give Dak pretty much rest for Dak’s arm to throw. Elliot and Darren and Alfred will take care of it. Dunbar should stay with Kickoff Returner at least for now.

    • Sean Martin

      December 12, 2016 at 1:07 pm

      I agree, going to need to run McFadden a bit here to get the most out of this running game in December. Or Morris, but like Bryson said, he’s simply struggling (such limited carries too).

      Thank you for the response!

  3. Russ_Te

    December 13, 2016 at 4:15 am

    Morris was running as well as he ever has, earlier this year. There might be a groin pull or something they are not reporting, or he is not reporting with McFadden ready behind him.

    As the Cowboys (presumably) put games and home field away, I think it’s clear the plan is to rest Elliott. It’s a longer season against generally bigger defenders than college, so no problems here with doing so. We’ll see if McF has rust, fresh legs or both.

    If they are both in good gear in the playoffs, I like the idea of letting Elliott pound away at defenses and then a fresh McF getting some 2nd half carries with his speed.

    It is time IMO to use the speed of both players in the pass game, and to the edge with pitches and stretch plays. One way to neutralize talented front 7’s like NYG and MN is to make them run. Dak also. More bootleg or keepers against a team that defends plays from the pocket well.

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DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class

Kevin Brady

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Breaking Down DeMarcus Lawrence's League High 5.5 Sacks Through Week 4

Much has been made about the Dallas Cowboys 2019 free agent class. Dallas has a ton of cap space moving forward, but they are going to "have" to pay many of the key players on their roster over the next two offseasons in order to keep their young core together.

Of course, when you're drafting, that's the goal. To draft so well that when your own players become free agents, you go ahead and pay them to keep them around, rather than overpay on the free agent market for external players.

One of the major pieces the Cowboys will have to retain this offseason is defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. And while Cowboys Nation often thinks of Lawrence as underrated around the league, the NFL has caught onto his importance as he enters free agency this Spring.

ESPN.com ranked their top 10 free agents for 2019, with DeMarcus Lawrence clocking in at number one, over elite players like Jadeveon Clowney and Le'Veon Bell.

ig: josinaanderson on Twitter

ESPN's top 10 free agents for 2019 and what Le'Veon Bell should be looking to command based on previous measures. https://t.co/aJ7H1n001t

DeMarcus Lawrence is going to command big time money, likely even Khalil Mack-type money. But the fact of the matter is that he has earned it. Lawrence has been the heart and soul of the Cowboys defensive line the last two seasons, and the most consistent edge player on the team as well.

Not only has he been an effective pass rusher, but DeMarcus Lawrence also plays with a relentless motor against the run that can sometimes be rare to find in those premier pass rushers. He really is a jack of all trades at defensive end, and should be priority number one for the Cowboys this offseason.

Thankfully, I can't imagine the Cowboys not retaining DeMarcus Lawrence and extending him in the coming months.



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When it Mattered Most, Cowboys Offensive Line Protected Dak Prescott

John Williams

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All-22 Notes: Connor Williams Stands Out in Wild Card Win

Throughout the 2018 NFL season, one of the major story lines surrounding the Dallas Cowboys was how frequently Dak Prescott was taking sacks. It's an area that the Cowboys will have to look at in the offseason to better protect their franchise quarterback moving forward. In the playoffs, however, Dak Prescott and the offensive line were much better at keeping their prized possession upright than they were in the regular season.

In the regular season, Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times for an average of 3.5 times a game. There was only one game where he wasn't sacked at all, way back in week two against the New York Giants. Four times this season, the Cowboys' quarterback was sacked five or more times. The New Orleans Saints got him for a season high seven times.

According to Pro Football Focus, Dak was "kept clean" -- not pressured -- on 63% of his drop backs during the regular season, which ranked 25th in the NFL. When kept clean, Prescott completed 74.1% of his passes, which was good for 5th in the NFL during the regular season. He was under pressure 37% of the time, which was the sixth highest rate in the NFL and his completion percentage dropped to 52.6%, still good for 10th in the NFL. It was better than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Baker Mayfield.

During the playoffs, Prescott's "kept clean" percentage rose from 63% to 68% and he was only sacked once in each game. The one sack against the Los Angeles Rams probably shouldn't have been called a sack as the referee blew the whistle because Prescott was "in the grasp"...

...of his offensive lineman.

During the playoffs, the Cowboys offensive line kept the pressure off of Prescott at a better rate, allowing him to be pressured on only 31.9% of his drop backs. Meaning he was kept clean at an improved rate from the regular season at 68.1% of his drop backs. This while playing against two teams that are really good at rushing the passer. The Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks both finished in the top half of the league in sacks this season and feature players like Aaron Donald, Jarran Reed, and Frank Clark who all had double-digit sacks.

As we know, pressure rates and sacks aren't all completely on the offensive line. The quarterback, wide receivers, and the play calling all factor in, but the Cowboys are trending in the right direction with their pass protection. A full offseason for Connor Williams in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program, better health for Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and -- fingers crossed -- Travis Frederick, should all help the offensive line play at a higher level heading into the 2019 season.

It can't be overstated how important it will be to get Travis Frederick back into the fold this season. Joe Looney was good, and that might be overstating it a bit. He was not noticeable on most plays during the season, but getting your All-Pro center back will tremendously help the offense in every facet of the game. Frederick's one of the smarter players in the NFL, who helps everyone on the offense to see the blitzes and calls out the protections. Both his mental and physical ability will be a welcomed site when the Cowboys begin practicing in the offseason.

With another year of growth for the quarterback and for the young pieces along the offensive line, and with a full offseason for Dak Prescott to grow with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Blake Jarwin, the Cowboys should be better next season at keeping the quarterback clean.



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5 Studs and Duds From the Dallas Cowboys 2018 Season

Brian Martin

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5 Studs and Duds From the Dallas Cowboys 2018 Season 2

I know we are all still little disappointed with the way the Dallas Cowboys 2018 season ended, but if we are completely honest with ourselves it ended a lot better than we initially thought it would. With the season officially over, it's time to start the evaluation process to see what went wrong and what right this past year.

I don't know about you, but I started the evaluation process a lot earlier this year than I have in years past. That is why today I want to share with you five of the Dallas Cowboys players who I believe had a fantastic 2018 season and five that unfortunately didn't quite live up to expectations.

Before we get started, I want to let you know that I tried to stray from pointing out the obvious, especially in the stud category. Instead I went with players who kind of came out of nowhere to have a really good season. I thought that would make it a little more enjoyable instead of pointing out the obvious. I hope you enjoy.

✭ Dallas Cowboys 2018 Studs ✭

Byron Jones

Dallas Cowboys CB Byron Jones

CB, Byron Jones

Byron Jones completely turned around his career this season with the Dallas Cowboys after being moved from safety to cornerback, his more natural position. Many had him pegged as a first-round bust, but he definitely quieted his critics by making his first Pro Bowl and becoming a Second-team All-Pro. I would say that qualifies as stud status.

The Predator and Wolf Hunter

You can't really mention one and leave out the other, which is why you're getting a two-for-one special here with Linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. This dynamic duo arguably played like the best LBs in the league, although it's Vander Esch who has received the majority of the attention and got the Pro Bowl not as a replacement. Both definitely had Pro Bowl caliber seasons and that alone speaks volumes to how they played in 2018.

C, Joe Looney

No one could've possibly predicted the kind of season Dallas Cowboys backup Guard/Center Joe Looney would have in 2018 after replacing Travis Frederick in the starting lineup. He became somewhat of an afterthought this past season, which is pretty impressive in itself considering he was replacing one of the best centers in the league. What's even more impressive is the fact he played every single snap on offense. No other Cowboys player accomplished that feat on either side of the ball.

DE, Randy Gregory

You may disagree with me here, but the way Randy Gregory played in the second half of the 2018 season earned him stud status in my opinion. If he would've played that way for the entire year he would've joined DeMarcus Lawrence with double digit quarterback sacks. His ability to turn his speed into power gave opposing left tackles fits. He ended up being among the best at pressuring the QB in the latter part of the season.

DT, Antwaun Woods

Antwaun Woods was viewed as nothing more than a camp body when the Dallas Cowboys picked him up in the offseason after being released by the Tennessee Titans, but it's not always where you start it's where you finish. He went on to earn the starting gig at the 1-tech or nose tackle this past season and was largely responsible for the success Dallas had at shutting down opposing offenses rushing attacks. Unfortunately, as well as he played all season it will probably be forgotten after the way the LA Rams completely dominated Woods and the rest of the Cowboys DL in the playoffs.

✭ Dallas Cowboys 2018 Duds ✭

Sean Lee

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee

LB, Sean Lee

The Dallas Cowboys wisely drafted Leighton Vander Esch as insurance if Sean Lee couldn't remain healthy in 2018, and thank the heavens they did. Vander Esch was supposed to be Lee's backup this season, but it ended up being the other way around after #50 once again missed quite a bit of the year with injuries. It looks like the torch has already been passed, making Sean Lee's future in Dallas a mystery moving forward.

DT, David Irving

Remember last offseason when the Dallas Cowboys decided to place just a second-round tender on David Irving and we were worried some other team would snatch him up? Yeah, well it looks as if the Cowboys are the ones who paid too much to keep him around because did basically nothing in 2018 despite all the high expectations we all had for him. After he sustained a high ankle sprain he pretty much went M.I.A. and no one really knows what the heck is going on or what his future holds.

WR, Allen Hurns

The Dallas Cowboys signed Allen Hurns this past offseason to help replace some of the lost production in the passing game after they decided to release Dez Bryant. Unfortunately, he never found his footing in Dallas and finished the year with an unimpressive stat line of 20 receptions for 295 receiving yards and two touchdowns. To add insult to injury (pun intended), his gruesome leg injury might be the only thing we remember about his 2018 season.

S, Jeff Heath

I'm actually a fan of Jeff Heath's, but he didn't particularly play very well this season. He ended up grading out as one of the worst tackling safeties in the NFL this past season. I don't know if it was some kind of fluke or what, but the Dallas Cowboys will surely be looking to upgrade the safety position this offseason either through free agency or the draft, perhaps both. Regardless, his days in the starting lineup may be all but over.

RB/WR, Tavon Austin

There were a lot of high expectations for Tavon Austin when the Dallas Cowboys added him via trade with the Los Angeles Rams. Austin was supposed to provide a different dynamic to the Cowboys offense and help improve their return game as well. Unfortunately a groin injury pretty much wiped out the majority of his season, but even when he was on the field he wasn't as impactful as we'd all hoped. He did show a few flashes of his talent, but for me it wasn't enough.



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