IRVING, Texas– As has been discussed this week, it's probably unfair to say Joseph Randle was benched.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Monday that Randle was disciplined for being careless with the football on the Saints' goal line in Sunday night's loss to New Orleans. Team owner/general manager Jerry Jones said he wasn't benched.
Both can be correct. Randle was the only running back with a carry when he dove over the line, scored a touchdown and subsequently fumbled. Following the play, he received four more – though Darren McFadden and Christine Michael combined for 11 the rest of the way.
Asked about it earlier this week, Garrett said he still expects Randle to be his starter this weekend against New England.
"We don't anticipate any changes that way," he said.
The latter stages of that Saints game were an interesting look at other scenarios, though. McFadden in particular earned one of his biggest opportunities of the season, tying a season-high with 10 carries for 31 yards.
Along with the second half of the 20-10 win in Philadelphia, it was one of the most sustained stretches of McFadden's season, which has seen him pop into and out of games frequently.
"For me, it's however the coaches decide to call it," McFadden said. "Whenever they call my number, I'm going to be ready – whether it's the first play of the game or the last play of the game, I'm going to be ready whenever it's called."
Even with a heavier workload in Week 4, though, McFadden is still averaging just eight carries per game. Chalk up three receptions in four games, and that average jumps up to 8.75 total touches per game. That's in keeping with a recent trend, as McFadden's touch total dropped during his last three years in Oakland – from 21.5 per game in 2012, to 13 per game in 2013, to 12 per game in 2014.
Perhaps that might help with his longevity. McFadden played the first 16-game season of his pro career last year, when he was averaging just 12 touches. But asked about it Thursday, McFadden said he thinks he's better when he can find a rhythm.
"That's one thing I would say: I feel like I get better as I run. So I guess I would say that," he said.
Randle's ball security problems led to a larger role for McFadden the last time around, but that's no guarantee of a heavy workload Sunday against the Patriots. The loss of Lance Dunbar for the season certainly should open the remaining running backs up for increased touches.
As might be expected, McFadden wouldn't be opposed.
"You've seen glimpses of me here and there, but I haven't gotten a chance to go out there and do everything I feel like I'm capable of doing," he said.