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What Happened to Lance Dunbar?


This offseason I posted an article raving about Dallas Cowboys’ running back Lance Dunbar. He was suppose to be this break-out player that no one on the field could cover. And yet here we stand after two weeks of play with Dunbar only carrying the ball one time for 12 yards and hauling in one catch for four yards. The lack of touches is concerning, and yet I cannot forget to mention Dunbar’s only reception ended in a lost fumble. That, combined with missing week one to heal more fully from a foot injury, has left Dunbar behind the pack – the pack mainly being DeMarco Murray.

Aug 4, 2013; Canton, OH, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar (25) carries the ball against the Miami Dolphins in the 2013 Hall of Fame Game at Fawcett Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In the preseason Dunbar was generally effective racking up yards on the ground and through the air. Before he sprained his foot in Arizona, he was on pace to be the Cowboys regular third-down back and most likely chip away at some of Murray’s carries on other downs. That plan has drifted away and Murray is now getting heat from all over the place stating he can’t avoid tacklers and he runs to darkness. Whether you believe these comments or not is irrelevant, the fact of the matter is Murray has only amassed 111 yards on 32 carries. That’s a measly 3.5 yards per carry. Regardless of what you think, something has to change with the Cowboys’ running game or the offense will continue the path it’s on.

Let’s say the Cowboys keep banging their heads against the wall and allow Tony Romo to throw the ball 45 times a game. There’s been endless talk about Romo taking control of the offense and calling his own plays. Either that has been a lie the first two weeks of the season, or he has been calling the plays for the last two and a half seasons or so because the offense is as predictable as ever. But in arguments sake let’s take his numbers he put up so far and average them out for the entire season. After two weeks, Romo is 66 for 91 with 561 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. He’s averaging roughly 280 yards per game throwing almost two touchdowns a game and 50/50 shot at throwing a pick. Stretch that over 16 games and you come up with 4480 yards/24 touchdowns/8 interceptions. Not bad right? Could be better though. Here’s how:

Like all things it starts with the line of scrimmage. If the big boys up front are working well together then Romo stays upright. To go along with that if the O-line is moving people off the ball, the backs are getting to the second level and picking up more than 3.5 yards per carry. Dunbar can excel in a situation like this because there aren’t many linebackers in the league that can run with him. Of course Murray will put up better numbers in this situation too, but until recently acquired Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters is starting at right guard, we can turn the heat down on this idea just a little.

When the running game does (maybe) get going and the offensive line is solidified, the ball will be taken out of Romo’s hands more often where silly, gun-slinger mistakes won’t happen as much. You’ll probably see Romo’s yards at the end of the season stay right around 4,500, touchdowns may go up slightly from the 24 that come from his average output to date, but more importantly he won’t be on his back as often and he won’t be putting the ball in the air 45 times a game.

What about all these receiving weapons? If Romo isn’t throwing the ball 45 times a game won’t the talents of Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, and Jason Witten be squandered? The answer is no. By having a running back defenses fear, and a running attack that can continually put up 100+ yards a game, it forces defenses to crown the box. The middle of the field will then be an open playground and you’ll see more one-on-one coverage on the outside. Sure Romo will be throwing less, but the yards after the catch will increase and the playmakers will be given more opportunities. All this if one piece like Dunbar can be added to the mix.