The Renny Rant: History Shows Cowboys’ Rushing Attack Needs Rescuing

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It’s no secret NFL fans are infatuated by the passing game. Nearly everyone out there loves to see 85-yard bombs for touchdowns while the tempestuous crowd roars, almost resembling the days of the Roman Coliseum. The NFL has come a long way from the “three yards and a cloud of dust” offenses of years past. The National Football League is now a passing league whether we like it or not.

Need proof?

 Tony Romo finished the 2012 season with an astounding 4,903 passing yards (career high) on 648 attempts (career high) completing 425 (career high) of those attempts with 28 touchdown passes, while suffering 36 sacks (tied career high) and racking up 19 interceptions (tied career high).

Those career highs in yards, attempts, completions, sacks and interceptions prove that our Cowboys relied on Tony Romo’s right arm FAR TOO MUCH in 2012. But when your running game is NOWHERE to be found for long stretches of games throughout the season due to either falling behind early or simply terrible performances from all parties involved, it puts ALL the strain and pressure solely on the shoulders of your franchise quarterback.

Fair? Of course not. But, let’s face it, it’s Tony Romo; almost nothing is fair in the life of Mr. Romo.

Does Romo deserve a quality running game to take much of the pressure off his shoulders? I for one certainly think so! So what will it take for our running game to convert from a glaring weakness to a formidable strength that defensive coordinators must game plan against on Sundays?

Dec 9, 2012; Cincinnati, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) fakes a handoff to running back DeMarco Murray (29) during the second half at Paul Brown Stadium. The Cowboys won 20-19. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA Today Sports

DeMarco Murray staying on the field for 16 games couldn’t hurt. In 13 games in 2011 (in which he only started 7 games) he racked up 897 yards for an average of 5.5 yards-per-carry, albeit with only two rushing touchdowns (though one was that dazzling 91-yard scamper against the Rams in his coming-out party).

In 10 games in 2012 (in which he started all 10) he still compiled an impressive 663 yards for an average of 4.1 yards-per-carry, but again with only four rushing touchdowns. So, in his brief two year career, Murray has led the Cowboys in rushing both seasons (2011-2012) with a 4.8 yards- per-carry average.  

But you see the trend here; low rushing totals in yards AND touchdowns in both 2011 and 2012. And keep in mind that Felix Jones (now a dreaded Eagle) accounted for 977 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns the past two seasons. Someone will have to replace that production (though often limited production) of the departed Felix Jones, and that someone will more than likely be Oklahoma State rookie Joseph Randle.

Randle had a nose for the end zone with the collegiate Cowboys (38 rushing and 2 receiving scores) and he will now have to bring that same nose to the Dallas Cowboys if our running game is to drastically improve in 2013.

May 10, 2013; Irving, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Joseph Randle (35) performs a drill during the rookie minicamp at Dallas Cowboys Headquarters in Irving, TX. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys brass believe Randle plays within the same mold of Murray’s style, so if (or when) Murray does miss games, they feel strongly about Randle being able to come in and shoulder the load in his absence. Because let’s face, in the six games Murray missed last season due to his foot injury, the running game led by Felix Jones suffered mightily. The rushing attack was so anemic, opposing defenses did not have to respect, or even worry about the threat of our ground game. And man, did that ever spell trouble for Tony!

A quarterback generally has three best friends; 1) a massive wall of blockers in front of him protecting his every move 2) a steady, sturdy and reliable running game and 3) a defense that will allow his side of the ball to hold a lead. In 2012, Tony Romo often had zero best friends (except maybe his BFF Jason Witten).

I think Romo deserves some best friends in his life…on the football field anyway. Nothing really is more invaluable to a quarterback’s success year after year than a potent and consistent running game. And for that matter, nothing is more invaluable to a TEAM’S success year after year than a potent and consistent running game.

Ever heard of Mickey “Spags” Spagnola? Well good old Mickey sides with me when it comes to the running game. Spagnola recently shared some eye-opening stats from the mothership of Cowboys sites, Allow me to now enlighten you and thus open your eyes.