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Mailbag: What's The Plan Without Dez For Several Weeks? Darren McFadden's Role?

KEN JACOBSDENVER, CO

With Dez Bryant out for a while, what direction do you see the Cowboys going with the football?  Do you see them trying to run the ball more, or going more to a slot set? Without teams focused on Dez Bryant on the outside, will we see more safeties crowding the box?

Rob:The offense is still going to try to establish the run, but to your point, receivers will have to win one-on-one matchups if defenses do start creeping an extra defender in the box. Jason Witten might see more bracket coverage without Bryant commanding his own double teams. This is a big opportunity for Terrance Williams, who has had plenty of practice time as the lead receiver since the offseason. I wonder if this means more Gavin Escobar. We saw again Sunday what he can do in the red zone and he has receiver-like traits.

David: Honestly, I think the game plan we saw early last night resembles what we'll see from this offense without Dez – a heavy focus on the running game and a passing attack that focuses on short, high percentage throws. Terrance Williams and Devin Street will need to step up to open the vertical passing game, but the roles won't change for guys like Cole Beasley and Jason Witten. One thing I'd like to see while Dez is gone is an expanded role for Gavin Escobar – particularly on the outside of the formation.

MICHAEL RAMOSABILENE, TX

Everyone, including me, is basking in the big victory against the Giants. However, no one seemed to notice that Darren McFadden was hardly used. I don't have a problem with the production of the other backs, but Darren hasn't done anything in my opinion to sit all game. Why are we not using his speed and power?

Rob: It's a fair question because McFadden had a nice start to the game. But if you followed training camp and preseason, most indications were Randle would be the lead back to start the season. I thought he was pretty decisive and efficient with his carries, and both backs looked comfortable in the passing game. And Lance Dunbar was basically a receiver in the game, either lining up out wide or motioning there out of the backfield -- have to expect that to continue without Bryant. It seems like the plan has been to let Randle wear on defenses early and then give them a fresh dose of McFadden. Randle was the lead back again in the third quarter, and once they fell behind by double digits they had to ditch the run.

David:McFadden got seven touches on the night, which I agree is not enough – but we always assumed there'd be a disparity between the two running backs. The real issue here is that the ground game had to go out the window when the Cowboys fell behind. They threw 45 passes on the night, compared to just 23 runs. There's no way that's the ratio they'd prefer, but game circumstances dictated it. I feel confident McFadden will have more opportunities as this season goes along.

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