Dez Bryant still rounding into form
On Wednesday, DallasCowboys.com beat reporter Rob Phillips stopped by the Pro Football Focus show hosted by Mike Clay on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio (10 a.m. ET weekdays – Sirius 210 & XM 87). Phillips talked about the Cowboys’ evolving backfield, Dez Bryant’s health, and more. You can find Phillips on Twitter @robphillips3.
McFadden Leads The Way
Darren McFadden has totaled 275 yards and a touchdown on 57 total touches in the past two games. On Tuesday, the Cowboys decided to cut ties with running back Joseph Randle. Is this McFadden’s backfield to lose going forward?
“Without Randle, McFadden has taken the torch and the running game has looked more like 2014 than at any point in the season,” Phillips said. “He has made tough runs, he’s involved in the passing game, he has been that complete back Murray was. With McFadden playing as well as he is, they need to lean on him more than ever.”
McFadden has been on the field for 107 of 138 offensive snaps over the past two games. McFadden’s advanced stats certainly don’t jump off the page. He has broken just two runs of 15-plus yards on 86 attempts, and he has only forced 11 missed tackles on 106 total touches. However, McFadden has always been at his best before contact due to his combination of burst and size. It obviously helps to mix his skill set with PFF’s second-best run blocking unit so far in 2015.
Phillips followed up his discussion on McFadden by confirming that Christine Michael is not a threat to take over as the lead back for as long as McFadden can stay healthy. Michael is still in the process of getting comfortable in Scott Linehan’s offensive scheme, and he might play a larger role later in the season.
“They like his (Michael) talent. They like his running style, and I think it’s been a matter of trying to ease him along and get him used to the scheme. But the way McFadden is playing, I don’t see a featured role for Michael.”
The Cowboys have only used Michael on two pass snaps as a blocker since Randle went down with an oblique injury. At this point in time, they envision him as an early down option only. He is worth stashing on your bench, due to McFadden’s injury history and the shallow depth chart at running back, but a payoff could take time.
What Can We Expect From Dez Bryant?
Dez Bryant saw six targets in his first game back, but he was held to just two receptions for 12 yards. Is health to blame for Bryant’s slow first game back?
“Being cleared for the game, medically he was good to go. They wouldn’t have put him out there if he wasn’t. Rust was definitely a factor. Back in training camp he also missed a good portion of practice. Conditioning, game shape and being around the nature of game is something he hasn’t done really since 2014. With more time on the field, he’ll get more comfortable. He had a difficult matchup with Richard Sherman. But going forward, he needs more time with Matt Cassel.”
Bryant showed his trademark burst on a 15-yard reception in Week 8, but he will probably need to wait for Tony Romo’s return to action to become a true WR1 again.
ETA On Tony Romo?
“Jerry Jones said there is no reason why Romo wouldn’t be ready for the first game eligibile, in Week 11, against the Dolphins. He is eligible to practice this week, but I don’t expect any team reps for him. Cassel needs all he can get. Romo has been through this before with the collarbone, so he knows what to expect.”
Romo is eligible to practice this week, but he is unlikely to ramp up activity until Week 10 at the earliest. His return to the lineup will provide a major boost for Bryant and McFadden, and it can even make Terrance Williams relevant again. Romo has dealt with this same injury before, and he responded well the first time.
Byron Jones started at safety in Week 8, and he kicked down to the slot in sub packages. Can we expect the same role going forward?
“At some point, they’d like to figure out a position for him. But he’s so versatile, they can use him wherever they need. They’ve thrown corner at him, safety, dime package, nickel package. He never showed that it was too much for him, so they kept giving him more. This past game, he started the game at free safety and I think that might be where he winds up for now. Jones has a cornerback skill set in a safety’s frame. He’s been very productive, especially covering tight ends.”
Jones finished Week 8 with five tackles, one solo defensive stop, and he allowed just two receptions on five targets. He limited Jimmy Graham to one catch on three targets and he was also one of only four defenders to play all 63 defensive snaps. Jones is definitely someone to get on your radar in IDP leagues for as long as he stays at the safety position.