Nov 10, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Joseph Randle (21) against the New Orleans Saints prior to a game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
If you’re one of those who couldn’t quite figure out the strategy being implemented by the Dallas Cowboys in last April’s NFL draft, there’s good news. Over the next few weeks, owner and general manager Jerry Jones will have a much better idea of exactly how good of a pick No. 151 was.
Rookie tailback Joseph Randle was chosen in the fifth round of the 2013 annual player selection meeting at a time when many felt that Dallas was already too late in addressing positions like offensive guard, defensive tackle and defensive end. History already shows that this was definitely true.
We’re about to find out if selecting another running back was actually a great call.
You can’t knock Jones too hard for addressing the running back position during the offseason, even if the NFL draft probably wasn’t the place to do it. It’s not like third-year veteran DeMarco Murray can stay on the field as much as he’d like, a real shame actually. It’s also true that the former Oklahoma Sooner enters the final year of his rookie contract in 2014.
Is Randle, a former star ball-carrier for the Oklahoma State Cowboys, a part of Dallas’ long-term future?
I’m not sure about that answer, but he’s definitely a part of the present and near future.
A Thanksgiving Day knee-injury to running back Lance Dunbar placed Randle, and also the durability of Murray, under the microscope. This specific lens will end up focusing first at Soldier Field in Chicago next Monday night as the Cowboys visit the Bears.
If the Cowboys learned something against the Oakland Raiders last Thursday, it was that both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns are a good thing. In large part, Dallas actually ran its way both back into the game and then away from Oakland in the second half.
While it’s true that Dallas will miss the quickness of Dunbar for the rest of the season, it would seem that America’s Team is still pretty well stocked at running back with Murray and Randle ready to carry the load.
But what if Murray goes down again?
A look at Randle’s production while playing football in Stillwater shows a highly active runner that both racked up yards and touchdowns. The main question surrounding his playing time as a rookie this season is whether or not he knows where to be in pass protection. Beyond that, Randle knows how to carry the ball.
Randle has played in eight games this season and his numbers are a stark contrast to those he posted in college.
While at OSU from 2010-12, Randle tallied 3,085 yards rushing, 917 yards receiving and hit pay dirt an impressive 43 times. His 5.5 yards per carry speaks for itself.
It’s been a slower start in Dallas as Randle has carried 45 times for just 111 yards with a single touchdown, thus far. His 61 yards on eight receptions might better illustrate his usefulness as a weapon, however.
Expect to see Randle’s numbers go up right away, unless, of course, you believe that the Dallas offensive coaching staff has more faith in undrafted third-year veteran Phillip Tanner—I’m not exactly in that camp.
The Cowboys don’t necessarily need balance on offense as much as they need a multidimensional attack that keeps opponents guessing. If Randle is ready for showtime, expect to see his numbers double over the next two or three games. If that happens then Dallas will keep its playoff hopes very much alive heading towards what’s looking like another regular season finale with major playoff implications against the Philadelphia Eagles—who else, right?
If Randle doesn’t perform, Jones might be asking himself why exactly he did what he did in Round 5 last April.