Did the Dallas Cowboys get Run DMC…or Bum DMC?
Sure, they’re one of my favorite music groups of the 1980’s. But it also refers the perennial underachieving running back, Darren McFadden.
Why underachieving? Well, just look at what he did while at Arkansas.
In his final year alone, he totaled 1994 total yards (1830 yards rushing and 164 yards receiving), 17 total touchdowns, won 3 awards (the Doak Walker Award, SEC Offensive Player of the Year and the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award), was named a Consensus All-American and finished second in the Heisman voting…for the second consecutive year. He did it all in 2007. Heck, he even passed for 4 touchdowns. Those are numbers that exceed even the great Adrian Peterson, as AP never matched those numbers in ANY of his three years at Oklahoma. And over McFadden’s three years at Arkansas, he averaged a whopping 5.8 yards per carry, again exceeding Adrian Peterson’s 5.4 yards per carry at Oklahoma. He was so awesome, he actually graced the cover of EA Sports NCAA Football 09 video game.
So when McFadden entered the NFL as the fourth overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, Raiders fans were understandably giddy about the potential of they’re new workhorse back.
Unfortunately, McFadden fell far short of expectations. Other than a breakout 2010 season, where he managed 1,663 yards per scrimmage in just 13 games, the remainder of his career left much to be desired. Over his seven years in the NFL, he barely doubled his yards from his junior year alone with a total of 4,247 rushing yards, with a much more modest 4.1 yards per carry. And that’s INCLUDING his breakout 2010, which just highlights his lack of production in 2008-2009 and 2011-2014. In fact, in his last three seasons, McFadden surprisingly averaged under 3.5 yards per carry. Part of this was due to the numerous injuries he sustained during his NFL career so far, including a chronic foot condition that cost him a number of games. In fact, 15 injuries cost him 29 games over his first six seasons. But a lot of it was also due to the significant number of negative yard plays he was involved in, not all due to a lackluster line in Oakland.
So after the emergence of Latavius Murray in Oakland, McFadden made his way down south to Dallas to try and replace a difference Murray, signing a two-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys worth up to $5.85 million, including a $200,000 bonus.
Of course, McFadden already had his first injury in Dallas with a bum hamstring keeping him out of some offseason work. But now McFadden says he’s OK:
— SundayNight Football (@SNFonNBC) June 17, 2015
Of course, we’ve all heard that before, so who knows whether it will become an issue later in the season. But McFadden is going to give it the ole’ college try and looks to build a role in Dallas along with Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar:
“I just want to go out there, stay healthy and run the ball the way I know I can run the ball….I’m just going out there and making plays. Right now, we don’t know much. We just know we’re competing for a job….I’m with a lot of younger backs now. My thing is, I just try to give those guys some of the knowledge I know from being around the league seven, eight years now. Those guys are great athletes and great players. I look forward to being back there beside them.”
Does he have a chance, or is he just going to serve as a “veteran presence” in the locker room?
Honestly, barring injury, there’s potential for McFadden to regain his Run DMC nickname. 2010 demonstrated that when not faced with injury, McFadden can be productive as a lead back behind a subpar offensive line. Dallas has a much better offensive line when it comes to supporting the ground game. In 2014, the Cowboys were second in the NFL in total rush yards and third in the NFL in yards per carry. Sure, part of that was DeMarco Murray, but a significant part of that was the offensive line.
Plus, unlike in Oakland in 2014 (or any other year in recent memory), there’s a substantial and efficient air threat in Dallas. In fact, in 2014, Dallas averaged 32 passing yards per game more than Oakland in only two-thirds the passing attempts. So defenses against Dallas won’t have the freedom to frequently stack the box as they did against Oakland.
One way or the other, it looks like McFadden is “all-in” for Dallas, as he’s recently listed his house in Oakland for sale:
Darren McFadden, who joined the Cowboys as a free agent, put his Oakland home on the market for $2.3m. Take a look: http://t.co/00P3NUtsgs
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) July 6, 2015
And it also looks like McFadden can’t wait to prove he belongs on the field:
— Darren McFadden (@dmcfadden20) July 5, 2015
Sure, McFadden is older now. He’ll be 28 by the beginning of the 2015 season. Not quite the dreaded 30 year old drop off for NFL running backs, but edging up on it. I’ll be bold though and predict that this will be a reemergence of 2010 Run DMC.
Whether it happens is anyone’s guess. One thing that’s for sure, though, is that with no proven every down options in Dallas, and no heir apparent rookie running back from the 2015 Draft, McFadden will have every opportunity to succeed.