Dallas Cowboys Work Out Veteran Running Backs, Challenge Coaches


The Dallas Cowboys decision to work out a few free agent running backs Thursday doesn’t mean the team dislikes its current stable of backs. Consider that the team spent real organizational resources on drafting two offensive tackles and adding a high-profile guard in rookie free agency. You think that means they dislike their offensive linemen?

If Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett believes anything, he believes competition makes everyone better. Since taking control of Valley Ranch, Garrett has infused the entire organization with his competition mantra. His coaching staff is committed to preaching it. His players come to live it.

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As much as anything, Garrett’s culture of competition is the reason this team won 13 games last year. Fight. Fight for a spot on the 53. Fight to be active on game day. Fight for snaps. Fight to start. Do it all over again come Monday.

So in that spirit, 2015 offseason orphans Ben Tate, Felix Jones and Daniel Thomas, among others, banged around the practice fields at Valley Ranch yesterday. Media types immediately seized upon the significance of working out the veteran running backs.

The shameless click whores belched out 500-word posts with the words “Dallas Cowboys” and “Adrian Peterson” in the headline, using the workout for more baseless speculation on a trade no credible observer of this team could believe the brass ever had any real interest in pursuing.

The serious journalists took a few paragraphs to inform readers of the work-out participants, then backfilled all sorts of column inches regurgitating well-worn criticisms about the team not drafting a running back this year. Apparently, serious journalists believe the 32-team NFL draft really takes place in a vacuum.

Back at the Ranch, where second-guessing draft strategies takes a back seat to driving men to be the best version of themselves, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan told dallascowboys.com reporter Rob Phillips what to expect from the running back position over the next few months:

"“I still feel like we’re going to find somebody that’s going to have, not the majority of our carries, but a good bulk of our carries. I think that person’s going to rise to the top. What’s interesting and exciting is we’re going to find out. That’s why we have this time and that’s why we have Oxnard. That’s what we do.”"

That’s what we do. So simple. This organization accumulates talent, drops it into a fiercely competitive environment infused with lofty expectations and accountability, then drives it every day to achieve its highest expression.

Perhaps the draft didn’t break the way the Cowboys hoped it would. Likely they were looking to add some talent to the running back group, but 31 other GMs had plans of their own and Dallas didn’t see enough value in trading draft picks to move up for one of the more premiere rookie backs.

Instead, the Cowboys hoarded their draft picks and added young talent to other position groups, chiefly among the defense. In doing so, they challenged the player personnel department to find backfield help elsewhere, and they chose to trust their coaching staff to develop it.

That staff has had success developing B-side talent in other position groups. Think George Selvie. Jeremy Mincey. When everyone wanted Dallas to draft a guard in 2012, they passed and instead picked up Ronald Leary as an undrafted rookie free agent.

Their success is driven by a culture of competition, and that process began for the running backs on Thursday with a handful of high-pedigree cast-offs sweating out a few drills in the Texas heat. The Cowboys’ stable of backs could look very different once the chill of autumn touches the air, but only if the runners already on the roster allow it.

You see, competition makes everyone better. That’s what Thursday was really about.

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