Mac Engel

Two is better than one to replace DeMarco Murray

Cowboys running back Joseph Randle has shown potential and explosiveness in his young career, but he can’t replace DeMarco Murray all by himselft.
Cowboys running back Joseph Randle has shown potential and explosiveness in his young career, but he can’t replace DeMarco Murray all by himselft. Star-Telegram

Whatever firm “talking to” Jason Garrett delivered to Joseph Randle, he got the message. Our favorite quote has gone all Garrett on us.

Rather than talking about “meat on that bone” that former teammate DeMarco Murray left on the field during a record-breaking season last year, Randle now is “just trying to get better each day.” Next thing you’ll know, Randle will be throwing out some line about how “It’s a process” and that he’s “not worried about the results.”

The Cowboys arrogantly believe that Randle and veteran free-agent signee Darren McFadden can combine to replace Murray’s productivity. This belief is rooted in an offensive line that, they believe, would allow my mother to run for 1,300 yards. My mom is almost 80, but does have two new hips.

Know this, the combination of “Joseph McFadden” is not going to equal what Murray did last season, but it’s better than anything on the street right now. That includes veterans Chris Johnson and Steven Jackson, the latter of whom took to social media to openly lobby for the job.

Joseph McFadden doesn’t have to be Murray, but they have to get close. Individually, it’s a bad bet. Together, it’s a decent bet. McFadden is not a bum, and on a certain number of carries both should flourish. Both have much to play for; both are trying to repair and enhance bruised reputations.

All they have to do is not screw it up.

Just dump the idea that combined these guys will be Murray. What Murray did last year was have a better individual season than any other Cowboys running back has had, including Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett. Even had he stayed, Murray wasn’t doing that again. That was a once-a-decade season.

For the Cowboys’ running game to run correctly, Randle has to win this job. He is younger and has that fresh-leg burst. The concern is that the third-year RB from Oklahoma State has provided almost as many impressive plays on the field as he has embarrassing moments off the field.

Garrett likens Randle’s previous role behind Murray as a “pinch hitter.” It’s an inherently hard role, but Randle was dynamic in the few chances he had. Whenever he came off the bench, Randle normally hit doubles and home runs. He averaged 6.7 yards per carry last season on 51 carries. Randle has the look of one of those running backs who, if he hits a certain number of carries — think 18 to 20 — he could easily average more than 100 yards a game. He has that potential.

“Potential is the word that strikes me,” he said Friday. “What you could do. What you would [do]. What you [should do]. I just have to put it on tape.”

He’s right. This is his shot to be an NFL featured back.

The remaining carries should be handled well enough by McFadden, who thus far has the distinction as being “The originator” Wildcat “quarterback” when he was at Arkansas. Who knows how good he could have been had he not played for the Oakland Raiders?

He played behind a bad offensive line with no real quarterback for arguably the worst team in the NFL since it drafted him fourth overall in 2008. He knows exactly what you think — that he’s finished, that he is injury prone.

“There are some people that say once you get hurt that I won’t go out there and jeopardize myself,” he said. “If I can’t go, I can’t go. It’s part of football. Some injuries you can play through and some you can’t.”

He started out training camp on the physically unable to perform list with a bum hamstring. This is not the season, so why bother even trying?

Of all things he’s been accused of, the one that bothers him is that he “stole money.”

“That’s the worst thing you can say,” he told me Friday. “I’m not the kind of guy that is just out here to collect a check. I’m a grinder. I want to show people that I can run the ball in this league still.”

Last season was the first time in seven NFL seasons he played all 16 games. He’s only rushed for more than 1,000 yards once in his career, yet he averages more than 4 yards per carry.

Those who watch him insist when he’s right and healthy, he can still play. There is no way the Cowboys can count on him to run the ball 20 times a game and expect him to last. If they give him the ball, but not too much, there is production left in him.

Individually, asking either of these men to be a decent facsimile of a 2014 Murray would be a concern. Collectively, they can do it. Don’t expect Joseph McFadden to be DeMarco Murray in 2015. They just have to get close.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @macengelprof and The Big Mac Blog