IRVING, Texas – Even one of the players expected to carry the load this year can see the running game has been a disappointment.
Considering DeMarco Murray had a career year and set the franchise single-season record in rushing yards, it was almost expected there would be a drop-off this year in the Cowboys' rushing attack, especially when none of the three tailbacks in training camp emerged as a clear-cut option to replace him.
But five games in, the Cowboys have certainly struggled in the running game, and not only in just trying to meet those lofty expectations. Overall, they rank 19th in the NFL at 106.2 rushing yards per clip.
Darren McFadden, an eight-year pro who signed in the offseason with the hope of perhaps winning the job outright, spoke to the media on Tuesday as the Cowboys have a bye week. McFadden acknowledged the running game hasn't met expectations, but also added some optimism that things could get turned around.
"If anybody is looking at it, they're definitely going to say that," McFadden said of the running game's struggles. "But we have to take care of our business and run the football the best we can. Right now, guys are just trying to get everything together and get on the right page. The bye week gives you a chance to get away from everything and re-evaluate everything you've done at this point. We try to come back the next week and correct those things."
McFadden didn't shy away from the notion that injuries to Dez Bryant and Tony Romo have affected the running game, but also knows no one cares to hear excuses.
"It's going to make a difference, but at the same time, you still have to go out there and take care of business," he said. "It's the next guy up. You can't look at the fact that Dez and Tony are down. We have to go out there and make plays."
With the season-ending injury to Lance Dunbar, McFadden seemingly has taken over that role as the third-down back. He caught nine passes last week against the Patriots, mostly coming from check-down throws late in the game.
But he certainly wants a more expanded role in the running game, something Cowboys Vice President Stephen Jones hinted at earlier on Tuesday during his weekly radio show.[embeddedad0]
"I definitely feel that way," McFadden said of making more plays. "I'm a ball player, I just go out there and play ball, and whenever the opportunity comes I'm going to be ready for it."
Last year, Murray ripped off an NFL record seven straight 100-yard rushing games to start a season, but through the first five outings this time around, none of the Cowboys' backs have recorded 100 yards in even a single game.
When asked if Dallas missed Murray on offense, defensive end and team leader Jeremy Mincey toed the line.
"They had a bond. He was here for a while, especially with Romo and Witten," Mincey said of Murray. "He fought for those guys because they were close friends. That is a difference now, but I'm not going to say that we miss him like that because the guys that we have on this roster are fully capable. We've just got to get this thing rolling and get back to what we know how to do, and that's play hard, play physical and play smart, most importantly."