IRVING, Texas - One of the biggest question marks for this team heading into training camp has yet to be settled.
In fact, it might not ever be settled, even throughout the season.
There are media reports surfacing that the Cowboys are leaning toward starting Darren McFadden. But in practice, it appears the club is leaning toward staying with Joseph Randle, who is getting more first-team reps and started last week's preseason game.
What we know about the running back situation is that both Randle and McFadden have shown enough to win the starting job. At the same time, neither has done enough to win it outright.
And with that, the Cowboys will likely head into the beginning of the regular season without announcing the starter.
But head coach Jason Garrett doesn't sound concerned. In fact, maybe it was his intention all along not to name a starting tailback. Perhaps the coaching staff already knows the direction it will take, but for now, Garrett doesn't seem overly worried about having both Randle and McFadden in the mix. The coach did say that having separate injuries between the two during camp prevented them from getting maximum exposure to compare.
"Really, you play the hand that you're dealt," Garrett said. "We want all the players to be out there every single day. If they were, you'd see them take more reps, both in practices and preseason games. But we got plenty of work in with those guys. We've gotten some work from each of them in the preseason games as well. I think we have a pretty good feel for what each of those guys is and what we expect from them."[embeddedad0]
Both of them sat out of the first game in San Diego, before McFadden got the start in Week 2, carrying the ball three times for just four yards. Randle replaced him and finished out the half against the 49ers, rushing for 30 yards on seven carries.
Last Saturday, Randle started and had only six carries for 15 yards. In the second quarter, McFadden came in to rush for 37 yards on only four attempts, with a nifty 15-yard run off left tackle.
"There has been good competition, and I think they feel the competition to make the football team, but also for roles on the team," Garrett said. "I think that's been a positive thing for us."
While both players are saying the right things to the media, they also agree that becoming the starting tailback is certainly a goal.
"Of course, it matters," Randle said. "I think I went out there and got better each day. I feel like throughout the season I'm going to continue to do that."
McFadden agreed, but said he will respect the coaches' decision. For a player who has split reps even in college and throughout his pro career, he vowed to stay ready for anything.
"A lot of people are going to put a lot of emphasis on it, and the competitor in me is going to say that I want to be the starting running back," McFadden said. "But knowing what it all boils down to at the end of the day, we're both going to get carries – however they decide to play it out."
And however the Cowboys decide, it'll likely come from what they've already seen. Don't expect McFadden or Randle to play Thursday night against the Texans in the final preseason game.
Reps or not, McFadden sounds ready to go, regardless of the limited attempts.
"You know, man, I'm a football player," he said. "I feel like I'm going to be ready whenever, whether I get four carries or zero. For me, whenever it's time, it's time."