Nov 28, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar (25) while Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Stacy McGee (92) attempts to make a tackle during a NFL football game on Thanksgiving at AT
As some of you may know, I was a big Lance Dunbar fan. I intended to write a piece on how the Cowboys finally figured out how to use their explosive back and his fit in the offense for the rest of the season. But after the depressing news of the injury to Dunbar’s knee, it’s time to figure how to replace his speed on offense.
Option 1: More DeMarco Murray
This is the most likely option. While DeMarco Murray lacks the explosiveness of Dunbar, he provides the consistency and reliability that will earn him more touches. Murray has looked better the past two weeks. He has totaled 228 yards and three scores the past two weeks and finally started to look healthy again. Murray was and is still the best back on this team and I have no doubt that he can take this team to the next level. But will an increased workload be detrimental to his health and the Cowboys’ playoff aspirations? That remains to be seen.
Option 2: More Joseph Randle/Phillip Tanner
Again, this is most likely to be the option Dallas goes with. But the problem is that we know what Joseph Randle and Phillip Tanner offer. Neither are explosive and both struggle with pass protection. While Randle and Tanner can grind out yards, is this really what you are looking for when Murray comes off the field? The answer to that is probably not. Maybe I am being a bit too hard on Randle and Tanner, but I just don’t see their value to this offense. They remain on the squad because they can both play Special Teams and with all the injuries the team has, they can’t lose these guys. But don’t expect them to provide much of a “spark” to this offense.
Option 3: Find a Free Agent Back
Going into Week 14 of the season, the cupboard is kind of bare when it comes to proven running backs. So it’s time to dig deep and see if there are any players out here that interest you. The first list of players are a group that the team worked out on Tuesday. The second group are personal finds that I would bring in to work out.
Out of this group, none of these running backs possess the explosiveness that Lance Dunbar has. But Carter and Draughn both have decent size with above average measurables. Draughn averaged 3.9 yards per carry last year with Kansas City, but he was most effective as a receiver out of the backfield. As a second year player playing behind Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster, Draughn totaled 24 catches to go along with 158 yards. Draughn also has experience as a kick returner and forced two fumbles on kick returns in 2012. He looks to be the best back out of the four that the team worked out on Tuesday.
A pre-draft favorite of mine, Ray Graham was on track to be a high draft pick if itnot for a torn ACL in 2011. Graham was one of my favorite players to watch when he was at Pittsburgh University and was one of college football’s best. Graham is currently on the Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad and would most likely be available for Dallas to claim. Graham who finally started to look like himself in preseason, was cut by the Houston Texans after being beat out by Dennis Johnson. Graham has the shiftiness that can make people miss and the versatility to lineup as a receiver. The question on Graham has been and always will be his health. He is worth the shot.
Former USC and New York Jets’ running back Joe McKnight is another interesting name that some of you may remember. McKnight was known as a flashy running back in college who never received many touches in the NFL. But McKnight has always possessed the ability to be a good player. Here is how McKnight and Dunbar match up athletically;
McKnight might be the closest thing to Dunbar physically, and I have no doubts that he could provide some explosiveness for the Dallas Cowboys offense. But what about Special Teams? McKnight has never been great on Special Teams and that has led to his release from the New York Jets. If you aren’t familiar with McKnight’s game, here is video clip of him back at USC :
Whoa. Remember him? I know what you are thinking. “He has too many concussions. No need to take a risk here.” The truth of the matter is that it’s a low risk move with high reward. Supposedly, Best is in shape and wants to return to the football field. It’s not yet known if he has been cleared for action by NFL doctors, but there is no denying the talent that Best has.
Jahvid Best was a future star before his concussions. But if he wants to get back into the NFL, I would at least work him out and see how he looks. This is a no risk type of move that Dallas could make that could pay off.
Option 4: Dwayne Harris
What? A few weeks ago, I made the case that the Dallas Cowboys had a special weapon in their arsenal that they have yet to fully use. Here is the link to that article: https://thelandryhat.com/2013/10/22/dwayne-harris-used-backfield. Harris is explosive and provides an instant mismatch on the field. Obviously, he isn’t built for many carries out of the backfield, but a few touches here and there could provide some spark for Dallas. These are the choices that the Dallas Cowboys front office and coaching staff is left with after the Lance Dunbar injury. How do you fix the vacancy left by Dunbar?