Despite completing four weeks of OTAs and minicamp practices, several things remain unsettled for the Cowboys. When the team reports to training camp on July 28 in Oxnard, Calif., several questions still need answers.
The staff writers at DallasCowboys.com – Rob Phillips, David Helman, Nick Eatman and Bryan Broaddus – will attempt to answer these questions before the start of training camp.
Today, the staff continues the series by predicting who will replace DeMarco Murray as the leading rusher:
3) Who Will Lead Cowboys' Offense In Rushing In 2015?
Nick Eatman: When we originally set these questions a few weeks ago, I thought I'd have a better feel for this, but just a handful of days before we leave camp and nothing has changed in my mind just yet. I guess that's normal considering there hasn't been any more practices. But my gut tells me the leading rusher of this team will be Darren McFadden. Maybe it's because he's more accomplished as a pro. Maybe it's because he's the first-round pick, albeit eight years ago. And maybe, just maybe it's because I'm a die-hard Arkansas fan and D-Mac is one of my two favorite players to ever line up. Who knows, the reason but I just think McFadden will be the guy getting more reps and will lead this team in rushing when it's all said and done. It won't be an 1,800-yard season, but I could see both McFadden and Randle getting at least 800 yards, with McFadden holding a slight edge.
Bryan Broaddus:This question would have been so much easier to answer before last season, but with no clear-cut starter coming into this one, my initial guess is that player is not currently on this roster. But with the players that are on the roster, I am going to have to go with Darren McFadden and I am basing this on how I watched Scott Linehan play DeMarco Murray last season. Say what you want about McFadden's injury history and lack of production with the Raiders, but he is the most talented running back on this roster. I envision Linehan keeping McFadden on the field and allowing him to be productive as a runner, pass catcher and blocker. He might not get the number of carries that Murray received, but Linehan will ride with the back that gives his offense the most chance to have success. That is McFadden, who will lead the team in rushing.
David Helman: I'm going to preface this answer by saying that DeMarco Murray got 85 percent of the carries in this offense in 2014, and that I absolutely don't think that will happen this time around. With that in mind, I suspect that Joseph Randle will likely lead the Cowboys this year – though his total will hover closer to the 1,000-yard mark than Murray's 1,845 from last fall. I genuinely think the workload will be split much more evenly between Randle and Darren McFadden, not to mention a larger role for the likes of Lance Dunbar or Ryan Williams. I also think there's a very real possibility the Cowboys could see significant contributions from a ball carrier who isn't yet on the roster. As you might be able to tell, I'm pretty conflicted and confused about what this season lies in hold for the running back spot. The Cowboys need someone to step up, and Randle seems like the best bet – though far from a sure one.
Rob Phillips: I agree with these guys – there's no real feel for this competition yet. With seven years' NFL experience, McFadden by far has had the most opportunities to show he can replicate DeMarco Murray's role on offense. He's a well-rounded player, and you figure he can thrive behind the best offensive line he's had in his entire career. He's the safer choice to start, and he very well might. But based on what we saw in the offseason I'll say Joseph Randle gets more carries on first and second down (and therefore more chances for yards) with McFadden perhaps featured more on third down – an important role considering what Murray gave them as a blocker and pass catcher. The thing is, Randle might be able to handle those extra duties, too; we just haven't seen him on the field with any regularity. He's shown he can be explosive in the zone system in spot duty. The question is how he consistent and durable he could be moving from 50 carries to 200 over a full season. It's an unknown, but inexperience doesn't necessarily mean incapable.