Aug. 17, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back (34) Ryan Williams is tackled by Oakland Raiders linebacker (55) Rolando McClain in the first quarter during a preseason game at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Raiders 31-27. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Training Camp Battle: Joseph Randle vs Ryan Williams

One of the battles I am most interested in watching during camp and throughout the pre-season is the third running back spot. With DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar locked into roles on the offense, the Cowboys will likely only carry one other back on their 53 man roster. The battle between Randle and Williams should be a fun one to watch in the second half of the preseason games. Let’s take a quick look at each player:

Joseph Randle:

Probably the favorite heading into camp, Randle is a fifth round pick from the 2013 draft class who had an up and down rookie year. Two weeks ago, I broke down why Randle was better than I remembered when I reviewed the All-22 coaches film on him. I even went back and looked at a few of his college games so I could get a better grasp on what type of player Randle is.

Here’s where Randle has an advantage over Williams. Despite only being a rookie, Randle has actually played more career games in the NFL than Williams (12 to 5) and is a whole two years younger. The Dallas Cowboys feel good that when the rookie got on the field last year, he didn’t make too many mistakes. He held onto the ball and as the season went on, he became a more patient, better back.

The one thing that I like about Randle is that he is a really nice fit in this spread offense. He is a good receiver out of the backfield and knows how to run on delays, misdirection plays, etc. Here’s an example of that this year against Philadelphia:

With what the Cowboys have invested in Randle and because his rookie year was somewhat of a success, I believe he has to be the favorite to take the third running back spot and potentially be the lead back if DeMarco Murray were to go down for any amount of time. Also, it’s important to remember that Phillip Tanner did not resign with the team and Joseph Randle has experience on Special Teams as well. Just something to keep in mind.

Ryan Williams:

Once a second round pick in 2011 by the Arizona  Cardinals, “Lil Sweetness” fell out of favor with Head Coach Bruce Arians and couldn’t find the field. Worse than that, Williams has suffered two major injuries since being drafted and his career may be hanging in the balance. So after all that, why does Williams have a chance to knock Joseph Randle off the roster and fight for playing time? Because he was born to be an NFL running back. Williams has the combination of size, explosion and vision to be a bell-cow running back in this league. He has a natural feel for the running back position and when he gets adequate blocking, he can make big plays. Here’s an example of that:

The Dallas Cowboys had interest in Ryan Williams before the draft, but Williams went two picks above Dallas in the second round. The Cowboys went on to select DeMarco Murray in the third round and it ended up turning out all right for them. If Williams can stay healthy (and that’s a HUGE if) Williams should win this job easily. I worry about how likely that is though. With Williams, there always seems to be something, whether it be a minor injury like a hamstring or something big like a torn knee ligament, I just wonder if he will ever be the same. You will likely know early in preseason if Williams is 100% healthy and ready to compete. For the sake of the Cowboys, let’s hope he is.

Conclusion:

I think in the end, Dallas will side with the younger, and in this case, more experienced player in Randle. But all it will take is a few nice runs by Williams for their coaching staff to believe that he is back to what he was at Virginia Tech. Expect a good battle between the two, but try to keep realistic expectations for Ryan Williams.

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