Dallas Cowboys

Darren McFadden’s injury hands Ezekiel Elliott starting Cowboys RB job

Dallas Cowboys hold final week of minicamp

The Dallas Cowboys hold the last week of minicamp at Valley Ranch before going into training camp.
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The Dallas Cowboys hold the last week of minicamp at Valley Ranch before going into training camp.

Darren McFadden wasn’t going to hold onto his starting job much longer, but the Dallas Cowboys had expected Ezekiel Elliott to have to earn it. Instead, Elliott inherited the job Tuesday when McFadden underwent elbow surgery.

“It just means more reps with the first team, but you hate seeing one of your guys go down,” Elliott said. “You hate to see one of your warriors wounded. But he’s going to be around a lot. He’s going to get back as soon as possible.”

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett announced on the first day of the team’s mandatory three-day minicamp that McFadden fractured his right elbow in an accident at home during Memorial Day weekend. McFadden will miss two months.

“We do anticipate seeing him at some point in training camp,” Garrett said. “But the surgery went well. We do anticipate him making a full recovery.”

With Darren missing some time, [Elliott’s] learning curve will accelerate, and it’ll slow down real slow now, because he has to go out there and do it every snap. It’s going to be a positive for him.

Cowboys running back coach Gary Brown on Ezekiel Elliott

Running backs coach Gary Brown said McFadden fell on his elbow while trying to protect his new iPhone.

“[He] cracked his elbow instead of the phone,” Brown said.

McFadden ranked fourth in the league with 1,089 yards last season after signing as a free agent in the off-season. But the Cowboys signed veteran Alfred Morris in free agency and drafted Elliott with the fourth overall pick.

Now, instead of trying to juggle reps for their running backs, the Cowboys can concentrate on getting Elliott ready for the season opener.

“Obviously the more reps he gets, the slower [the game] will become,” Brown said. “With Darren missing some time, his learning curve will accelerate, and it’ll slow down real slow now, because he has to go out there and do it every snap. It’s going to be a positive for him.”

There is really not a time I would feel uncomfortable with him being in the game right now, which is unusual for a rookie.

Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan on Ezekiel Elliott

It was only a matter of time before Elliott took over as the starter, and the Cowboys expect to use him as a three-down back. Elliott rushed for 3,961 yards and 43 touchdowns in his three-year career at Ohio State and has the receiving and blocking skills to match.

“I would hate to overstate anything at this point,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “But he is a full-package running back. There is really not a time I would feel uncomfortable with him being in the game right now, which is unusual for a rookie.

“Over my years, I have had some really good running backs. But there were certain areas of the game where you would say if we do this that is not his cup of tea. But I think Zeke is well-rounded. I don’t think there is ever a down or distance or situation where he can’t carry the load. Obviously, we have other guys who are going to do it, but we will lean heavily on this young kid.”

video by Jared L. Christopher

Charean Williams: 817-390-7760, @NFLCharean

Cowboys key dates

July 28: Training camp opens in Oxnard, Calif.

Aug. 13: Preseason game

at Los Angeles Rams

Aug. 19: Preseason game

vs. Miami Dolphins

Aug. 25: Preseason game

at Seattle Seahawks

Sept. 1: Preseason game

vs. Houston Texans

Sept. 11: Regular season opener vs. New York Giants

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