Dallas Cowboys

Midseason report: Cowboys’ newcomers are contributing, despite some baggage

Darren McFadden has averaged 4.38 yards a carry in the Cowboys’ past three games.
Darren McFadden has averaged 4.38 yards a carry in the Cowboys’ past three games. Star-Telegram

They improved the pass rush through the draft and free agency. They used their first-round pick to help the secondary. They addressed the running game to an extent in free agency.

Every move the Dallas Cowboys made in the off-season pointed to the 2015 season, a season that had Super Bowl expectations.

They felt so good about their chances that they were willing to bring in a player with so much off-field baggage that virtually every other team stayed away.

Some of those moves have panned out. Some of them haven’t.

Here’s a look at how the newcomers have impacted the Cowboys:

DE Greg Hardy: The most controversial signing of the off-season — signing a guy involved in a domestic violence incident — has paid off for Dallas on the field. Since serving a four-game suspension, Hardy has made 15 tackles and a team-leading four sacks in four games. But that’s come with plenty of off-field issues, including his being summoned for at least four meetings with coach Jason Garrett on how to better handle himself.

DE Randy Gregory: The Cowboys felt they found a gem when Gregory fell to them in the second round. And the standout from Nebraska has flashed potential, but he’s missed four games with an ankle injury and hasn’t recorded a sack.

DB Byron Jones: The Cowboys’ first-round pick has seen his playing time increase every week, and he has showcased his coverage skills and tackling ability. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli called him one of the best defensive rookies he’s coached in his 20 professional seasons. Jones is fourth on the team with 31 tackles, including 25 solo.

RB Darren McFadden: Has established himself as the top back for the Cowboys with a breakout game against the New York Giants in Week 7. He has averaged more than 25 carries and 111 rushing yards the past three weeks.

LG La’el Collins: Supplanted Ronald Leary as the starting left guard in Week 7 against the New York Giants, which is when the running game started to take off.

QB Matt Cassel: Acquired in a trade with Buffalo in September, Cassel has given the Cowboys a veteran presence at quarterback in place of Tony Romo. But he has yet to lead the Cowboys to a victory, throwing as many interceptions (4) as touchdowns (4) in three starts.

LB Andrew Gachkar: Known mostly for his special teams ability, Gachkar has given the Cowboys much-needed linebacker depth with his versatility to play all three spots.

DL David Irving: Signed off the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad in September, Irving has made a favorable impression. He has blocked a field goal and recorded two tackles for loss.

WR Brice Butler: Another acquisition via trade in September, Butler had a nice 67-yard catch at New Orleans in Week 4 but has been bothered by a hamstring injury since.

KR Lucky Whitehead: An undrafted free agent who is getting better in the return game, highlighted by a 79-yard kickoff return last week against Philadelphia.

RB Christine Michael: Most expected Michael to play a bigger role in the running game after a trade with Seattle in September, but he has only 12 carries for 43 yards in four games.

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