Randle V. McFadden: Cowboys 'Hellafied' Plan

OXNARD - The NFL.com headline - 'McFadden admits he and Randle will split carries' - goes beyond misleading. Not only does it not reflect what Darren McFadden actually told us in an exclusive interview, it also does not reflect the Cowboys plan at running back. At all. Premium truths inside, from the training camp sideline - with guidance from watching RB plays from the morning walkthrough:



I'm going to assume that this is yet another example of someone trying to do "inside analysis'' of Dallas Cowboys training camp from 3,000 miles away, a reinforcement of the validity of how we do our CowboysHQ.com business: If the Cowboys are in Oxnard or San Diego or San Francisco or Green Bay or London, CHQ is there, too ... in part to prevent misunderstood reports like the following ...

This week, running back Darren McFadden sat down with us for a visit on 105.3 The Fan. We asked him how much he desired to be RB1, given the fact that when healthy in Oakland, the former first-round pick was exactly that.

"You know the competitor in me definitely wants to be the No. 1 guy that goes out there,'' McFadden told us. "But at the same time, it's like, man, you know we're going to split carries.''

This comment morphed into a regurgitated report on NFL.com headlined, "McFadden admits he and Randle will split carries.'' But in fact, this is not an "admission'' from McFadden, who has essentially been healthy enough, as of Thursday morning, to go through exactly one full-speed workout over the course of this camp.

Now, he looked good. Big, strong, fast, smart. But it's been ONE practice.

So McFadden almost certainly knows that with Joseph Randle getting first crack at being RB1, and doing nothing to lose that perch -- heck, he sustained an oblique injury the other day and amid speculation he might miss a week instead missed half-a-day -- his perspective on "splitting carries'' isn't an "admission.''

It's a "hope.''

It's a "hope,'' by the way, shared by Lance Dunbar, who tells me he also wants to compete for RB1 carries, to be something more than a speciality guy working in specialty packages. But even if that's all Dunbar ends up doing, at least there is a definition for him in this offense.

There is, at this moment, not yet a definition for McFadden in this offense.

NFL.com writes that Darren's comments to us mean he has "verbalized what we've all known for a while: The will employ a running back by committee.''

But we do not know this at all. Listen to Cowboys running back coach Gary Brown on the subject of Randle, who the team believes might just be able to close the talent gap between him and the departed DeMarco Murray if he continues to close the professionalism gap:

"That's my new 1,000-yard rusher right there!'' Brown recently said out loud while overseeing Randle and his position group.

McFadden isn't "admitting'' anything here; that word makes it sound like's he's sliding down to Randle's level. In fact, he needs to elevate to Randle's level in order to be part of a RBBC approach.

Listen to another part of what McFadden told us: "So whoever goes out there or goes out there second -- I just know whenever I do get a chance to get the ball in my hands, I'm going to go out there and go 110 percent."

Now we're talking. That's a trite but realistic plan for McFadden, who certainly has the natural talent to beat out Randle ... but the Cowboys aren't at all close to considering that as a plan. They think of Randle what McFadden thinks of Randle. To wit: Randle is "a very slashy guy. The one thing that I've learned about him since we've been out here is he's a hard worker, and I love to see that in a running back. He's a guy who can (hit a) home run at any time. He's not afraid to stick his nose in there and pick up a blitz."

And what does McFadden think of McFadden?

"You're going to get a guy who's going to stand in there and protect the pass, pick up the blitz and protect the quarterback," he said. "A hard runner. When I see the hole, I know how to hit it. A lot of people just look at the speed that I have. If you watch me play, you know I'm a pretty physical back also. That's one thing a lot of people don't think about when they think about Darren McFadden. They don't think about the physical-ness. I definitely love making contact."

The scouting reports get thrown into the gumbo. So do the raw stats. McFadden has averaged just 3.4 yards per carry the last three seasons. Randle last year had an impressive 6.7 yards per carry, rushing for 343 yards and three touchdowns. Maybe Randle as a workhorse allows him to continue on that path; maybe McFadden escaping Oakland to instead be a part of a club with the NFL's best O-line allows him to straighten out his statistical path.

Smile

But join me in checking out the first seven plays on the "card'' (in part gameplan preparation for Sunday's preseason game at San Francisco) as I observed them unfold at Thursday's morning walkthrough:

Play 1) First team: Randle as the single RB in the backfield behind QB Brandon Weeden
Play 2) First team: Empty backfield, with a TE and four WRs, no RBs
Play 3) McFadden enters as the RB, staying in to pass protect
Play 4) The second team enters, and Randle is in the backfield in the I-formation behind a FB
Play 5) Second team featuring: Empty backfield, with a TE and four WRs, no RBs
Play 6) Dunbar joins the second team and runs off-tackle right
Play 7) McFadden joins the second team, alongside Vaughan in the shotgun, and runs a route

There is much to take from those seven plays off the card, much to learn. But note: that Randle started, that McFadden came in to pass-protect, that Randle was the starter with the second group, and that McFadden didn't actually get a carry or even touch the ball on those seven plays.

"Admit'' to splitting carries, NFL.com? Heck, in a seven-play card series, he played a role but didn't even get a carry. (UPDATE: Randle aggravated that oblique injury in the afternoon workout while McFadden -- touted by experts like our man Bryan Broaddus as "the better player'' in comparison to Randle -- was able to get through a second full session.)

When Randle, McFadden and Dunbar are all healthy and practicing, Brown is able to say, "Now that there is some competition out here, you're going to see some hellafied running."

Is that a "plan''? Yup, it's part of one that can, of course, change based on performance. No "admissions'' here. Just "hope'' ... not that McFadden will lead the group, but rather that McFadden can be at least part of the "hellafied'' group.




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