In the wake of the Ezekiel Elliott suspension, the Dallas Cowboys have to temporarily shift their focus to keeping backup running back Darren McFadden healthy.
Elliott was suspended for six games on Friday for an alleged domestic violence incident. He’ll reportedly appeal and could seek an injunction while he fights the discipline in higher courts, but there’s still a lot of relative uncertainty when it comes to his status.
That makes keeping McFadden’s wheels greased paramount. McFadden turns 30 later this month and he was the starter in Dallas in 2015, finishing fourth in the NFL in rushing with 1,089 yards.
However, he was unseated by Elliott when he was selected with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Elliott went on to win the rushing title while McFadden played in just three games due to injury.
But the intention has always been for McFadden to be the primary backup. He proved he’s capable with a solid season in 2015, and now the Cowboys feel like they can stem the tides while Elliott is gone.
But if McFadden gets dinged up, it could further derail things.
Alfred Morris struggled miserably as the No. 2 running back when McFadden was hurt in 2016. Playing behind one of the best offensive lines in football, he averaged just 3.5 yards per carry and provided no explosion with zero carries for more than 20 yards.
In all honesty, his job probably would have been in jeopardy this offseason if not for the lingering concern that they could lose Elliott for a stretch. As a No. 3, the former two-time Pro Bowl selection is significantly overpaid with his $2.1375 million cap hit in 2017.
But with a lack of a better option, the Cowboys will likely keep him around for depth. However, they certainly would prefer not to have to turn to him as the primary back.
With a five-game preseason slate — thanks to the Hall of Fame Game — the Cowboys running backs are exposed to additional wear and tear that could be costly to a guy with a history of injury issues like McFadden. So they should seriously consider resting the veteran whenever possible, unless they want to be stuck with Morris as their top back for a long stretch.