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10 Answers: Evaluating The Cowboys' Running Game From 2015 Season

(Editor's Note: Last summer, the staff attempted to answer 20 questions about the Cowboys' roster leading into training camp. With the 2015 season complete, we're picking out the 10 best and most applicable questions and reviewing how our predictions fared.)

3) Who Will Lead The Cowboys' Offense In Rushing In 2015?

Nick: While my answer here was for McFadden, I certainly didn't think he would be able to rush for nearly 1,100 yards despite not starting until midway through the season. I always thought he was better than Randle, but you could sense the coaching staff was going to give him plenty of chances to win the job. Ultimately, he couldn't handle the situation and McFadden had to claim the job by default. From there, he proved himself to be a viable runner and pass-catcher. Personally, I think McFadden is a good piece to the running game but they desperately need to add a young back – preferably in the draft who can be groomed for years to come.

Bryan: Initially thought that the leading rusher for this football team was going to come from a back that wasn't with the club in Oxnard. Barring a trade, I stated several times that I believed that Darren McFadden was the most complete back on this team and given the way that Scott Linehan used DeMarco Murray the previous season, it wasn't going to be a shock if he tried to use McFadden the same way. The only down fall that I saw in the way that these coaches used McFadden was that they didn't go with him sooner. They waited much too long in my opinion to make him the lead back. I could understand the apprehension with McFadden's injury history but going with Joseph Randle from what they saw in training camp was not smart at all. He didn't mesh well with the line and there were too many snaps where he was indecisive running the ball. It just appeared that McFadden's running style was a better fit and as the season wore on, the line became more comfortable with him.  

David: I was so close, and yet so far with all of my running back predictions this year. I said that the Cowboys' leading rusher would hover around the 1,000-yard mark – but unfortunately I thought it'd be Joseph Randle, not Darren McFadden. I also said that the workload was bound to be more evenly distributed, as DeMarco Murray took an absurd 85 percent of the touches in 2014. That number dropped dramatically, as McFadden led the team with just 58 percent of the snaps. Before the team even reported to training camp, I thought the Cowboys would add contributions from a new running back. It wasn't as major as I was expecting, but Christine Michael and Robert Turbin combined for 47 and 192 yards. All of these things combine to explain just how topsy-turvy the running back position was this year. The team's Day 1 starter was cut halfway through the season, and they cycled through no shortage of backup options. The one thing we learned is that McFadden is indeed capable of handling a starter's workload, to the tune of 239 carries for 1,089 yards – in just 11 starts, no less. All of that said, we're going to get to start this rollercoaster all over again in 2016. McFadden is only under contract for one more season, and there's nothing in the way of depth behind him.

Rob: Based on what we saw in the offseason, I thought Randle had the early edge over McFadden in the competition entering camp. Indeed, Randle had 74 carries to McFadden's 37 in the first five games before he lost the starting job and ultimately his spot on the roster. McFadden simply was the more reliable player play in, play out and day in, day out. The question all offseason was whether he could handle close to 20 carries a game, and the Cowboys might have been hesitant to place that much work on him in the early going. Partly out of necessity he averaged 18.3 carries over the final 11 games, but in doing so he proved to be a durable and physical rusher and an underrated receiver (40 catches). Drafting a young back to pair with McFadden as he enters his ninth season would make a lot of sense.

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