Dallas Cowboys Running Back By Committee Plan Can Work


While most fans of the Dallas Cowboys continue to dream of seeing current Minnesota Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson play in Dallas in 2015, the likelihood of this dream diminishes with each passing day. Therefore, Cowboys’ fans must prepare themselves for a running back by committee offense this season but the good news is that this plan has worked for many recent Super Bowl champions.

Dallas appears content to use some combination of Darren McFadden, Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar and Ryan Williams to replace the production of last season’s rushing champion DeMarco Murray who signed with the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason. The Cowboys have a long history of having one lead running back (Tony Dorsett, Emmitt Smith, DeMarco Murray, etc.) carry the majority of the rushing load so the committee approach to toting the ball may be unsettling to some.

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However, there has been a trend set in the current era of the National Football League in which many successful teams have spread the rushing workload among several backs. Seeing the success of this approach should quell the concerns of Cowboys’ fans that feel like Adrian Peterson is the only solution available for Dallas.

The current champions, the New England Patriots were led in rushing last season by Jonas Gray who totaled a meager 412 yards on only 89 carries. Shane Vereen (391 yards), Stevan Ridley (340 yards) and LeGarrette Blount (281 yards) were the other main contributors to the Patriots’ season rushing total of 1727 yards which is 118 yards fewer than Murray’s season total.

In 2011, the New York Giants’ leading rusher was Ahmad Bradshaw with 659 total yards. In fact, the eventual Super Bowl XLVI champions had only two other players total over 100 yards on the season (Brandon Jacobs – 571 and Danny Ware – 163).

The Super Bowl XLV Champion Green Bay Packers totaled 1606 yards as a team, led by Brandon Jackson’s 703 yards. Amazingly, their second-leading rusher was starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers with 356 yards.

In 2009, the New Orleans Saints gained over 2,000 yards on the ground between three primary runners, Pierre Thomas (793), Mike Bell (654) and Reggie Bush (390). Likewise, the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers were led by Willie Parker with 791 yards and Mewelde Moore with 588 yards.

Looking at the career averages of the running backs Dallas is likely to employ suggests that Dallas’ rushing attack could mimic those of recent teams to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. Darren McFadden’s career average is 606 yards per season and Joseph Randle in two seasons in the NFL, has averaged 253.5 yards per season.

However, it is to be expected that Randle’s carries will increase this season now that he is not playing behind Murray who had 24.5 carries per game. McFadden has never averaged more than 18 carriers per game and has been prone to injury meaning that he will not be worked as hard as Murray was so Randle will have to pick up some of the slack.

If Ryan Williams can stay healthy and live up to the potential that many NFL experts say he possesses, he could be a nice third back in the rotation. Together the three backs could provide Dallas with enough of a running attack to maintain their ball-control style of offense.

Star running backs don’t win championships; teams do. Adrian Peterson has not won a title despite being the best runner of his generation.

The Cowboys have decided to better their team, especially their defense this offseason. Looking at recent Super Bowl winners suggests that this is a wise decision considering that last season Dallas was eliminated from the playoffs because they couldn’t sack an injured Aaron Rogers and they allowed two receivers to catch over 100 yards of passes.

No team in recent memory has won a title with a sub-par defense. If the Dallas defense can be one of the better defenses in the league, the situation at running back will not be as critical as it now appears.

This season, the Cowboys could be the ultimate example of synergy. Despite letting the NFL’s leading rusher leave, the whole of the team’s parts may just add up to be greater than the sum of the individual players.

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