Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott figures to have a prominent role right away, but he’s also entering a veteran running back room that includes free-agent signing Alfred Morris and returning starter Darren McFadden. If he’s going to be a featured back as a rookie, “Zeke has to earn it,” running backs coach Gary Brown said.
In other words, expect a healthy competition.
“I think that’s the best thing for our team and for those guys going forward,” Brown said.
That’s just fine with Elliott, who says competition “keeps you on your toes and make sure you’re getting that work done.”
Dunbar saw his 2015 season cut short in October when he suffered a major injury to his left knee against the New Orleans Saints, tearing the anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and the patella tendon.
There is a chance he might not be ready for the start of the regular season, let alone the start of training camp and is a good candidate to put on the physically unable to perform list.
Related players: Darren McFadden
In theory, this helps the stock of Darren McFadden since he would serve as the team's primary passing down back with Dunbar sidelined.
CB Charles Tillman (knee)
WR Corey Brown (shoulder)
DT Dwan Edwards (ankle), WR Ted Ginn (knee), LS J.J. Jansen (head), G Andrew Norwell (hamstring)
CB Morris Claiborne (hamstring, ankle), DE Ryan Russell (abdomen)
WR Dez Bryant (foot, knee), WR Brice Butler (hamstring), CB Brandon Carr (shoulder), S Barry Church (ankle), DT Nick Hayden (ankle), S Jeff Heath (shoulder), LB Anthony Hitchens (ankle), CB Byron Jones (ankle), DE Demarcus Lawrence (back), LB Rolando McClain (foot), RB Darren McFadden (groin), QB Tony Romo (back, left shoulder), LB Kyle Wilber (toe)
QB Sam Bradford (concussion, left shoulder), C Jason Kelce (knee), T Jason Peters (back)
LB Kiko Alonso (ankle), LB Connor Barwin (quadricep), LB DeMeco Ryans (hamstring), DE Cedric Thornton (ankle), S Walter Thurmond (hamstring)
S Don Carey (back), WR Calvin Johnson (ankle), DT Caraun Reid (ankle), CB Darius Slay (neck), DT Gabe Wright (ankle)
CB Crezdon Butler (teeth), TE Eric Ebron (quadricep, hand)
Green Bay Packers
S Micah Hyde (hip), C Corey Linsley (ankle), DE Mike Pennel (quadricep), CB Damarious Randall (hamstring)
WR Davante Adams (ankle), T David Bakhtiari (knee), T Bryan Bulaga (knee), S Morgan Burnett (ankle), LB Jay Elliott (ankle), RB Eddie Lacy (ankle), G T.J. Lang (shoulder), LB Clay Matthews (ankle, knee), RB Aaron Ripkowski (ankle), G Josh Sitton (knee)
For the Panthers, if Corey Brown is out, then Devin Funchess figures to be a Sneaky Start once again. With Zach Ertz and Ryan Mathews out, Brent Celek and Darren Sproles both get a bump. Celek is a top 10 play this week in a nice matchup with the Lions. Calvin Johnson is questionable but is expected to play. With Martellus Bennett sidelined, Zachary Miller is also a Sneaky Start at the tight end position. He has been very involved the last few weeks and the Packers just gave up a boatload of fantasy points to Kyle Rudolph last week. Alshon Jeffery and Matt Forte are both expected to play, but the Bears have been very devious when it comes to handing out injury information. Don't be shocked if either is inactive on Thursday evening. If they both return, it will obviously put a dent in the upside of Marquess Wilson and Jeremy Langford, respectively.
Although Darren McFadden has received the majority of the team's carries the last four games, his workload could be reduced in what will likely be wet conditions at Miami's Sun Life Stadium.
If McFadden is healthy enough to play, we expect that he'll get the vast majority of the touches considering that the apparent RB2 (Turbin, not Smith) just recently joined the team.
Friday, November 20, 2015, 6:29pm
Cowboys RB Darren McFadden (groin, questionable) took limited practice reps again Friday and is questionable for Week 11. Midweek downgrades are never good, especially given McFadden’s long and sorted injury history, but the return to Friday practice is encouraging. Ian Rapoport reported that the Cowboys are just trying to keep McFadden fresh. Rod Smith is apparently the RB2 in Dallas right now.
Thursday, November 19, 2015, 5:53pm
Cowboys RB Darren McFadden (groin) was added to the injury report Thursday after taking limited practice reps. Midweek downgrades are never good, especially given McFadden’s long and sorted injury history. Ian Rapoport reported that the Cowboys are just trying to keep McFadden fresh. His Friday participation will be key. Rod Smith is apparently the RB2 in Dallas right now.
Friday, October 30, 2015, 6:45pm
Cowboys RB Joseph Randle (back, out) missed practice all week and is out for Week 8. Randle is out this week and is facing disciplinary action for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. Darren McFadden will get the start and Christine Michael will serve as the change-of-pace back. It’s a very tough matchup against Seattle, but the Dallas offensive line should be able to create a few opportunities.
Thursday, October 29, 2015, 6:14pm
Cowboys RB Joseph Randle (back) missed practice again Thursday. Randle is out this week and is facing disciplinary action for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. Darren McFadden will get the start and Christine Michael will serve as the change-of-pace back. It’s a very tough matchup against Seattle, but the Dallas offensive line should be able to create a few opportunities for McFadden.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015, 6:45pm
Cowboys RB Joseph Randle (back) did not practice Wednesday. Randle is likely out this week. Darren McFadden will get the start and Christine Michael will serve as the change-of-pace back. It’s a very tough matchup against Seattle, but the Dallas offensive line should be able to create a few opportunities.
The Cowboys will have a new starting running back this weekend.
The announcement came from owner Jerry Jones — who else? — during an appearance on 105.3 The Fan on Tuesday morning. Jones said that Darren McFadden will get his first start since signing with the team as a free agent during the offseason.
Two factors likely played a role in the move. The first is that Joseph Randle suffered an oblique injury against the Giants that could keep him out of the lineup against the Seahawks this weekend. The second is the way that McFadden performed against the Giants, often looking unstoppable. If Randle is indeed out, Christine Michael would likely see a bump in snaps behind McFadden.
Dallas Cowboys running back Joseph Randle left Sunday's Week 7, 27-20 loss to the New York Giants in the first quarter, and NFL Inside Randy Getlin has confirmed on Monday that Randle is dealing with an oblique injury.
This injury is similar to the one that caused Randle to miss time during the Cowboys' preseason and training camp.
In Randle's place, running back Darren McFadden had a breakout game against the Giants. He finished Week 7 with 29 carries for 152 yards and a touchdown. It was his first opportunity to operate as the team's lead back.
There has been no word on how much if any game time Randle might miss.
With Lance Dunbar likely lost for the season, now the attention will turn to Darren McFadden, Joseph Randle and Christine Michael. HC Jason Garrett said he expects all three to have their own roles this week when the Cowboys face the Patriots. He also said the running back-by committee approach might be altered somewhat with Dunbar’s setback.
“I think we’re always evaluating that, and it will happen naturally with Lance being out,” said Garrett. “We’ll look at it in practice and games, and we’ll look at what we’re asking guys to do. We’re constantly evaluating that stuff. We like to make it competitive, and we like guys to have to earn their opportunities each week and certainly within the ballgame. We anticipate (Michael) being a part of the mix this week along with Darren and Joe, and we’ll see how it goes as the week goes on.”
The story said the team likely isn't going to bring in another running back so it looks like Michael will get a shot. He's not the same kind of back as Dunbar, thus the reason the Cowboys would have to alter their committee approach.
The Cowboys have just two runs of 10 yards or more this season. No team has fewer.
“We have to do a better job running the football. We were behind the chains way too much in this ballgame and kind of digging out,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "You have procedure penalties and holding penalties and you see a lot second-and-12, second-and-16 and first-and-20, and those are hard drives to overcome.
"We’re at our best when we’re balanced. We’re at our best when we control the line of scrimmage and run the football because it gives us great looks down the field to throw it and make the big plays down the field that we've made in this offense over a number of years."
The Cowboys will need to get more from their running game over the next 8-10 weeks while Romo recovers from a broken left collarbone. The best way to make backup quarterback Brandon Weeden comfortable is to create manageable third-down situations for him, and the way to do that is to have success running the ball on first and second down. It's potentially good news for Randle owners but at the same time expect defense to perhaps focus on the Cowboys run game even more and make Weeden beat them.
In Sunday’s 27-26 win against the New York Giants, Tony Romo threw 45 passes, his most in a game since 2013. Last year the most he threw in a game was 41 times in an overtime win against the Houston Texans.
But game situations dictated what looks like a larger-than-expected reliance on the passing game.
The Cowboys closed the first half in a two-minute situation and closed the game with 12 passes on their final two drives to overcome a 10-point deficit with 8:01 to play.
“I thought when we ran the ball it was efficient,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “We’d like to pop a few long runs, but I didn’t think that our running game was a concern at all. There were some things that were there. It was just a weird game.”
The Cowboys running was one of the bigger fantasy questions coming into the season and, as expected, Randle looks like he's going to lead the way in terms of carries. Randle carried 16 times for 65 yards. Darren McFadden had six carries for 16 yards. The Cowboys’ 80 yards on 23 carries on Sunday would have been a season low in 2014. Their lowest total last season was 92 yards on 25 carries in a loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
Joseph Randle is listed as the starting running back on the first depth chart released by the Dallas Cowboys in advance of Sunday’s opener against the New York Giants. But both coach Jason Garrett and vice president Stephen Jones admit they have not yet decided who will start.
It could be Randle, who was the backup last season to the departed DeMarco Murray, who ran for a team-record 1,845 yards. It could be free-agent signee Darren McFadden, who is looking for a fresh start after a disappointing and injury-dotted seven years in Oakland. Or it could be Christine Michael, the newly-acquired 2013 second-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks who came over in a trade Sunday.
“We won’t outline anything before the game,” Garrett said. “We’ll give each of those guys a chance over the course of the week to show us that they’re worthy of opportunities.”
Jones said the starter will likely be decided in practice this week.
As McFadden has stayed healthy and the team added Michael to the mix, Randle's stock has slipped significantly over the last couple of weeks. Owners should take a long-term approach with Randle, since it's not likely that McFadden stays healthy for a full 16-game season. The beat writers seem to think that Michael was added for depth, not to become the starter. That said, Randle is much less attractive than he was a month ago.
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