Cowboys will give Darren McFadden chance to shed label

IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys running backs coach Gary Brown did not know much about Darren McFadden before the running back joined the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent. He watched him from afar. He knew of him. But he didn’t really know him.

McFadden’s seven-year run with the Oakland Raiders was mostly a disappointment. He had one 1,000-yard season, played in a full season just once and did not average better than 3.4 yards per carry in any of his final three seasons in Oakland.

"He wants to prove that he wasn’t the bust that people are talking about," said Brown. "We are going to give him the opportunity to prove that."

How McFadden gets that opportunity will be determined during the spring and summer and through the preseason as the Cowboys try to coordinate a running back by committee approach with McFadden, Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar and Ryan Williams.

As the Cowboys get ready for their second week of organized team activities, Brown isn’t ready to gush about any of his runners.

"I like what I see," Brown said. "He works hard. He had tremendous burst, tremendous speed. I can’t wait to see him in pads. I got to give all those guys credit. I’m trying to mix them in. They are all getting chances with the [starters] and they are performing.

"They know there is a job to be won and they all want it. But at the same time they are going to work hard to get better. If they get better, the team gets better."

Randle and McFadden split the first-team work, such as it is in the organized team activities. McFadden took the first turns in individual drills, but that might have more to do with experience than pecking order.

Brown called McFadden "smart" and "hungry." The last time McFadden played in a zone scheme was in 2012 -- with Cowboys offensive line coach Frank Pollack handling the same role for the Raiders -- and he averaged 3.3 yards per carry.

Despite the poor average, Brown isn’t worried. Maybe it has something to do with having a much better offensive line in Dallas.

"He is a great for the outside zone scheme, put-his-foot-in-the-ground type guy," Brown said. "He wants to get going forward. He has tremendous speed. That is a positive. We just have to get him going on the other stuff."

Brown has coached two 1,000-yard runners: Murray and Peyton Hillis. Nothing was expected of Hillis, an Arkansas teammate of McFadden’s, in 2010 with the Cleveland Browns and he finished with 1,177 yards. Perhaps Brown knows what he is doing since he coaxed 950 yards out of Trent Richardson as a rookie with the Browns in 2012. Richardson has rushed for 1,082 yards since, and is now with ... the Raiders.

"I don’t know what happened in Oakland," Brown said of McFadden. "All I know is what he has been here. He has been nothing but professional. He has worked hard mentally and physically. I’m looking forward to seeing him in pads."