Many wondered why nine running backs were taken before Oklahoma State’s Joseph Randle was finally selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. The native of Wichita, Kansas ran for 2,633 yards and 38 touchdowns in his final two seasons’ as a college Cowboy. But Dallas counted it’s blessings when the Big-12 Conference’s leading rusher from 2012 dropped into their laps. Randle was expected to become stater DeMarco Murray’s back-up this season. But after the first two weeks of the regular season, there no sign of him. Why?
The simple and most succinct answer would be experience. Especially, when it comes to pass protection. Protecting quarterback Tony Romo’s back is a privilege that must be earned. Both running backs Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner have had a year to learn that lesson. Hence, they are both located directly above Randle on the depth chart. And both impressed during the off-season as well. Unfortunately, both have also fumbled the ball in the regular season. And that’s a huge “no-no” in head coach Jason Garrett’s book. Just ask Murray. He was benched for a half in the preseason for mishandling the “rock”. And that was the pre-season!
So, their mistakes and the Cowboys lack of a running game could mean Randle might be dialed up sooner then later. During the pre-season, Randle quietly lead the team in rushing. In five games, he had 215 rushing yards and one touchdown on 55 attempts. (3.9 yards per carry) Granted, that was mostly against second and third team players. (some of whom are no longer in the NFL) But Randle did show good instincts, quickness and a nose for the endzone. Randle’s speed has always been in question, especially after he ran a 4.63 at the NFL Scouting Combine this summer. Still, he was fast enough to get the job done.
And Randle is willing to wait his turn. He recently told ESPNDallas.com:
“I’m part of the program. Now when they need me, I’ll be ready and I’ll keep practicing hard…I will be ready when they call me, hopefully sooner rather than later. It’s all about the team.”
And that team is in desperate need of a running game. So far this season, the Cowboys are tied for the 26th worst rushing offense in the NFL. They have rack up a total of 124 rushing yards in two games. Many factors have contributed to this low number. Murray’s lack of vision, Bill Callahan’s play-calling and poor offensive line play have all contributed to the team’s lackluster rushing efforts. Randle could very well be the key in restarting a Dallas rushing engine, which has clearly stalled.
But how much can you really rely on a rookie? Center Travis Frederick, the Cowboys first round pick this year, got “tuned-up” by Kansas City defensive tackle Dontari Poe over the weekend. Frederick’s inability to stop Poe directly resulted in two sacks on Romo. The point is: a rookie, is a rookie, is a rookie. And I think that is the main reason the Cowboys are taking it slow with Randle. Unfortunately, their time table may have to be moved up if the Dallas running game continues to falter.