Look for Darren McFadden to go from the second option in the Dallas Cowboys running back by committee to chairman of the board when they take the field for Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks.
Not only is previous starter Joseph Randle iffy with a back strain that sidelined him in the first quarter of Sunday’s 27-20 loss to the New Giants, but the work McFadden did relief earned him a bigger role, per coach Jason Garrett.
McFadden proved to be the team’s biggest bright spot with 29 carries for 152 yards and a touchdown, all season highs.
It was the first 100-yard performance of the season for a Cowboys running back, the first for McFadden since 2013 when he was still with the Oakland Raiders and the fourth-highest total of his career.
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“We will get back to work and we will give him his opportunities and keep the whole thing competitive for everybody,” Garrett said. “But he has certainly earned some more touches. Absolutely.”
Some of McFadden’s success can be attributed to dominant play up front by the offensive line. Randle has runs of 13 and 11 yards on his first two carries before leaving with an injury.
But this was also about McFadden running strong throughout the game and seemingly getting better as the game went on because of his role as the lead back rather than sharing touches.
He entered the game with 129 yards on 37 carries with a high 10 carries twice this season. The 29 carries on Sunday were the second most of his career and the most by a Cowboys running back since DeMarco Murray rushed 29 times in Week 2 of last season.
“Different guys respond to different things,” Garrett said. “You have to get to know the back. He responded to that situation well yesterday. I certainly do think we had some of our best run opportunities in the game yesterday. I thought I was blocked real well up front. We did a good job as a staff giving guys good opportunities up front.
“But he really ran well. He run tough inside, short yard on 3rd 2 where he pushed the pile was a big play. He made a lot of space runs, made people miss, finished runs. He made a lot of dirty 3 and 4 yard runs. I thought he really played well.”
McFadden signed with the Cowboys in March to be part of the committee approach they were using to replacing Murray, the 2014 NFL leading rusher who signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency.
McFadden came to Dallas in hopes of a fresh start after a disappointing seven years in Oakland where he was labeled a bust after being picked fourth overall in 2008.
Six games into the season, he is breathing new life into the running game.