Dallas Cowboys: Don’t overlook Darren McFadden in 2017

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

Darren McFadden won’t lead the Dallas Cowboys in rushing in 2017, but he still has a pivotal role to play for the offense

Two seasons ago when the Dallas Cowboys were struggling with quarterback injuries and just a bad year of football in 2015. However, they had one plus on the roster, as running back Darren McFadden rejuvenated his career. That season, Run DMC rushed 289 times for 1,089 yards and three touchdowns, his first 1,000-yard season since 2010 and just his second overall.

Must Read: Cowboys: 5 Questions remaining heading into training camp

Injuries have been a setback for McFadden as most of his early career with the Oakland Raiders saw him miss many games. Even in 2016 with the Cowboys, McFadden played in just three games, having just 24 attempts for 87 yards.

After suffering an elbow injury last offseason, in addition to the emergence of running back Ezekiel Elliott, McFadden had to show great patience in his recovery. Once healed and cleared to play, he also had to accept a new role within the offense as the reserve running back behind Elliott.

McFadden will be 30 years old once the 2017 season begins, and though he’s not the main focal point and 1,000 yards on the ground most likely won’t happen, he is still a player who has averaged 4.2 yards per carry and has scored 28 touchdowns for his career.

More from NFL Spin Zone

In the season where he rushed for a 1,000 yards on a four-win team, McFadden averaged 4.6 yards per carry, his third-best average of his career. But what can he bring to the team this season?

If the nine-year veteran can just stay healthy in a reserve role, he should beat out Alfred Morris for the No. 2 depth chart spot. Moreover, he can help give Elliott a break here and there and keep the offense moving as he’s played with the stout Cowboys offensive line for two years. McFadden can also help Elliott with his transition into the NFL as it will be just his second season, with the opponents now having a season worth of tape to review on the superstar running back.

McFadden can also help bring excitement to the Cowboys offense in working as a tandem with Elliott, giving the Cowboys a unique combination at running back. Zeke Barrera of Cowboys Wire wrote about that scenario in a recent article, especially for third-down plays:

"“Having McFadden allows the Cowboys to take Elliott off the field in 3rd-and-long situations, keeping him fresh. Elliott carried the ball 322 times last season, and Dallas hopes to preserve his health and limit the amount of hits he absorbs in 2017.”"

McFadden will make Elliott a better running back in Elliott’s second season, but every conversation involving McFadden always leads back to one thing: his overall health. The elephant in the room is whether the veteran running back, at 30 years old, can fend off injures that keep him off the field. He’s battled injuries since joining the league.

Next: NFL Power Rankings 2017: Best players by jersey number

The opposition and fans alike must not overlook McFadden this upcoming season. If he makes it out of training camp healthy, Run DMC will make a vast difference for the Cowboys. McFadden will help make Elliott even better than he was as a rookie, and give the Cowboys a player they can use in various situations throughout any given game.