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Mailbag: McFadden's Talent Level? Regression On Both Sides Of The Ball?

BARRY SILVERMANBROOKLYN, NY
Am I wrong to think that Darren McFadden is a sub-par running back? It seems he always tries to hit the hole and never does anything creative like bounce outside or break tackles. He also doesn't seem to show a lot of burst or strength? What am I missing?

Rob: Yeah, I disagree, Barry. Overall, McFadden has given this offense an element they didn't have before he became the starter – a decisive north-south runner who finishes runs. Against an elite Carolina defense, he and Robert Turbin couldn't get anything going. Maybe the short week affected him to some degree in the middle of his largest five-game carry workload as a pro. The offense also got pretty one-dimensional early due to the turnovers.

David:I'll qualify this by saying that I do think this team needs to address the running back position in the spring, but that's not because McFadden is bad. He's turning in one of his best seasons as a pro, and he's doing it without the benefit of a Pro Bowl quarterback to loosen up the defense. Honestly, McFadden is one of the few gambles the Cowboys took in the offseason that is actually working out. It's all the other gambles around him – like Joseph Randle, for instance – that are combining to hurt the offense.

TREVOR D'MELLO
EDINBURGH, UK
I was one of the people who thought locking up Marinelli and Linehan would be the smart play, yet arguably we've seen regression on both sides of the football. We've taken our share of injuries, but why aren't we seeing players stepping up like Bruce Carter did last season or does this only occur in contract years?

Rob:This is just a fact – you're seeing regression on offense mostly because Tony Romo only played four games this season and finished two of them without injury. The defense has kept them in games for several weeks now. Yes, giving up a 3rd-and-24 to Carolina hurt, but when you're not scoring points on offense you're basically asking the defense to play perfectly. The one area where they've struggled is takeaways, and it's hard to pinpoint why compared to last year, besides the fact that they've dropped interceptions or haven't recovered fumbles.

David:It's hard to fairly judge the offense, when you consider that Tony Romo will play a grand total of four games this year. On top of that, the unit's other top playmaker – Dez Bryant – had a six-week absence of his own. Those are losses that'll skew the stats – sorry if that sounds like a lame excuse. Defensively, I agree with Rob that this group just isn't getting takeaways. Dallas has forced a horrific seven takeaways. If you bumped that number up to just 14 or 15, I'm confident this team would have two or three more wins. I also think a big part of the reason for the lack of takeaways is an underwhelming pass rush. The Cowboys just aren't getting to the quarterback the way we thought they would.

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