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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
  • https://insidethestar.com/ Bryson Treece

    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.

    • http://wmscradio.com/show/upon-further-review/ Sean Martin

      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.

  • Rod

    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.

    • http://wmscradio.com/show/upon-further-review/ Sean Martin

      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!

  • Russ_Te

    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.

Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Cowboys Have a Championship Defense

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Takeaway Tuesday: Cowboys Have a Championship Defense

The Dallas Cowboys are not only breathing in playoff contention, but they're now the favorites to crown themselves as the NFC East champions in 2018. It's pretty impressive how the tables can turn so quickly in the NFL. Dallas played very well against the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday and we learned quite a bit from them as they bounced back to .500. Here's this week's Takeaway Tuesday! Enjoy it as much as you did Brett Maher's game winning field goal a couple of days ago.

Cowboys Have a Championship Defense

Despite taking steps in the right direction, it's impossible to compare this offense to units like the Chiefs, Saints and Rams. However, it's the Cowboys' defense that could be labeled as a championship unit. Facing an offense with such a strong WR core, allowing only one touchdown on the road is impressive.

The Cowboys sacked Matt Ryan three times and were constantly causing pressures. Byron Jones was great once again, allowing only two catches in passes thrown in his direction. And of course, the kid who's been impressing us all, Leighton Vander Esch continued to play out of his mind. He should be the Defensive Rookie of the Year front runner at this point.

The Cowboys' defense is one of the best in the NFL right now, and any offense will have a tough time facing them. It'll be intriguing to see if they can take the next step and stop a high-powered unit like the Saints in a few days.

Offensive Line Woes Are Gone

The offense has improved a lot the last couple of games. Although there is still a lot to work on, they're not struggling as they were in the first half of the season. The offensive line is a huge part of this. With Marc Colombo at OL coach, things have looked very different in Dallas.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Ezekiel Elliott: "I feel great. I feel fast. I feel physical. I feel very comfortable with the running schemes. We just got to keep rolling. That's what's important. We just got to keep rolling.

Ezekiel Elliott has been on a roll the past two weeks and his comments regarding how he feels about the running schemes shouldn't go unnoticed. The offensive line wasn't playing as well as they are right now earlier in the year. Dak Prescott is noticeably more comfortable in the pocket.

It's intriguing to know what will happen at left guard for the Cowboys. With Connor Williams injured, Xavier Su'a-Filo has done a good job filling in for him. Williams has the upside, but should Dallas mess up the mojo this OL has lately?

Dak Prescott Continues To Be Money In Clutch Si

Dak Prescott: Clutch QB

Dak Prescott continues to be criticized by fans while he keeps proving us why it's not that easy to move on from him. The guy is far from the perfect passer, yet he's been clutch time and time again. This time he did so on the road on an impressive two minute drill.

With 1:46 on the clock, Prescott marched his team down to the Falcons' 24 yard line. He managed to give his team another game winning drive in consecutive weeks. The Cowboys' young quarterback needed a confidence boost and this is perfect for him. He needs to keep it up if the team is going to finish the season as the NFC East champions.

Since entering the NFL, Dak has 12 game winning drives. As frustrating as his play is at times, he will not be easy to replace if the Cowboys decide to move on from this guy down the road. Hopefully, they don't have to. I, for one, believe Dak can be way better with a proper coaching staff. But that's a discussion for another day.

Now, it's time to celebrate the Cowboys' victory and get ready for a short week as the Cowboys play the Washington Redskins on Thursday.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Cowboys Have a Championship Defense" 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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Player News

Geoff Swaim Needs Surgery, Should the Cowboys even use a Tight End?

John Williams

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Cowboys TE Geoff Swaim Quietly Exceeding Expectations? 1

Well, the injury woes continue to mount for the Dallas Cowboys with news coming down this evening that Tight End Geoff Swaim broke a bone in his wrist in the 22-19 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. The injury will need surgery which will mean Swaim will be out a while, if not for the rest of the season.

David Helman on Twitter

Geoff Swaim broke a bone in his wrist yesterday and is going to need surgery. Sounds like it might not be season-ending, but he won't be available Thursday #cowboyswire

In previous seasons this wouldn't be much of a blow to the offense, but Geoff Swaim has been the only tight end that the Cowboys have ben able to rely on this season. Dalton Schultz is a rookie, Blake Jarwin's been inconsistent, and Rico Gathers still isn't fully trusted. With the Dallas Cowboys and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan's insistence on using a tight end, it seems there's a huge hole at the position heading into Sunday's first place showdown with the Washington Redskins.

But in reality, is there?

For weeks, I've been screaming for this team to use more 10 personnel (one running back and zero tight ends) as its primary passing formation because it gets their best pass catching weapons on the field at the same time. Swaim has been solid and consistent in his first year as a starter, but the rest of the tight end group has disappointed. So why even run a tight end out on the field.

The Dallas Cowboys have options that could replace the tight end in the passing game without actually using a tight end.

First, they could use Noah Brown as the de facto tight end. He's been one of the best blockers on the team in his first two seasons with the team and this is the type of role he's made for. Split him out wide and motion him in tight when you want to run. He can be a threat down the seem and in the red zone with his athleticism. He'd be a mismatch for the linebackers that try to cover him and could open space underneath for Cole Beasley. Brown is also a really good run blocker, so having him on the field doesn't negate what you want to do in the run game.

The other player the Cowboys coaching staff could work into more of the tight end route responsibilities is Allen Hurns. Hurns is a really good route runner, especially in the middle of the field, where the Dallas Cowboys haven't received a lot of production. You can put Hurns in as the fourth wide receiver and split him a couple of yards off the tackle to give him a cleaner release than a TE might get and have him run "Y-option," shallow post routes, or drags. He can be a threat in the passing game if put in situations where he can excel. See below for something Allen Hurns does really well.

Film Review: What's Up with Allen Hurns?

In fact, by going four wide receivers with Brown or Hurns on the field, it's possible the opposing defense is forced to run more of dime packages against the Dallas Cowboys 10 personnel.

Why would you want to get teams into dime packages?

Most NFL teams have two pretty good linebackers that they can deploy in nickel situations, but teams rarely have four corners that they can put on the field and feel really good about. So, if you can force teams to remove one of their 11 best players for a backup corner back or safety, you are already winning that matchup.

That matchup would also get you into much more favorable defensive fronts to run against. Even if the opposition put seven or eight in the box, it would be against smaller personnel like corners and safeties instead of a second linebacker.

Running 10 personnel as their base offense moving forward would be unconventional, but with an opportunity to take control of first place in the NFC East on Thanksgiving, now is not the time for conventionality.



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Player News

Cowboys WR Michael Gallup on Personal Leave; Team Offers Support

Jess Haynie

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Michael Gallup

Dallas Cowboys rookie receiver Michael Gallup suffered a personal tragedy on Sunday, being informed that his brother committed suicide. He is now on personal leave away from the team, and both Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett have given their full support to Gallup during this difficult time.

According to reports, Gallup was unaware of his brother's death until immediately after the Cowboys' win over the Atlanta Falcons. Michael did not return with the team to Dallas and remained in Atlanta to be with his family.

A formal statement was made by owner Jerry Jones yesterday regarding Gallup:

“Our team and our entire organization are deeply saddened by the news of Michael’s loss. His family is our family. We share in the grief and pain that comes with something so personal and tragic. We offer our support, care and comfort for Michael, and we ask that all of those who have sons and daughters and brothers and sisters join us in keeping Michael and his wonderful family in their thoughts and prayers.”

Throughout his time owning the Cowboys, Jerry has built a reputation for personal loyalty and compassion with his players. His head coach is no different.

As he addressed the media Monday, Jason Garrett did not get into football matters when addressing Gallup's situation:

“This is a very challenging time for him. We’ll take it moment by moment, day by day, and give him all of our love and all of our support.”

While Michael is certainly dealing with something far more important than football, his availability for Thursday's Thanksgiving game against the Washington Redskins does come into question.

The Cowboys have a short week to prepare for Washington, and Gallup has started their last five games. If the rookie has to sit, which seems probable given the timeframe, we can expect more playing time for Allen Hurns and Noah Brown.

Whatever happens happens on that front. Our focus is on Michael Gallup during this sad time, with him and his family in our collective thoughts as Cowboys fans and fellow humans.



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