How The Cowboys Running Back Position Will Be Won
By Tyrone Starr
There is nothing like some actual football related things to help with the doldrums of the offseason. You know, actual players on an actual field doing meaningful drills.
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With the first set of organized team activities finishing up, it was the first step in the process of the 2015 Dallas Cowboys putting last season’s surprisingly successful run to bed and starting the journey of a new year.
Of course when you get actual football players doing actual football things, you also get members of the media putting microphones in guys’ faces.
Maybe the biggest story from this first round of OTA’s arose from that exercise when Cowboys running back Joseph Randle was asked if he was chomping at the bit to get the season started.
Randle’s reply? (via The Dallas Morning News)
"“Yeah, he [DeMarco Murray] had a good year last year you know but I got to sit back and watch a lot and I feel like there was a lot meat left on the bone”"
Well… alright then…
There’s a lot of ways you can interpret that comment.
You can say he’s being honest. You can chalk it up to Randle doing Randle things (a.k.a. not thinking before speaking or acting as some of his past indiscretions would indicate.) You can even say he was “taking a shot” at the previous Cowboys running back and giving the Eagles some bulletin board material.
Regardless, I think it’s clear that Randle does not lack for confidence and that is exactly the type of thing you want from a guy who’s going to be fighting for and expected to win the starting running back job in 2015.
Of course, there will be competition. Of the four backs in the Cowboys stable, you would have to think that the organization wants Randle to earn the job given that he is the only one drafted by the team and you want to be right about the selections you make.
Ultimately, no one cares who earns that right as long as someone earns it.
As we’ve discussed in this space before, it’s clear that the starter and primary backup will emerge from the current quartet employed by the Cowboys. Who will fill those roles will be the real question however as all the candidates come with their own set of abilities that they bring to the table.
Randle is the one you would probably consider to be the most complete. All of them could stand at least a minor upgrade in their pass blocking skills but he would have to be considered the leader in the clubhouse at this moment, especially given some of his big time runs last season.
Free agent addition Darren McFadden has all the measurables you would want in a running back but for whatever reason, it just hasn’t translated to the field. Some of that clearly can be attributed to the losing culture he endured during his tenure with the Oakland Raiders but there have been lots of great running backs who produced impressive numbers for bad teams.
If McFadden has any dog in him so to speak, this would be the time to show it.
The other guy on this roster who needs to step up and show something is Lance Dunbar. For two years now, the offseason has been the time that we’ve all heard about how the Cowboys want to get him more involved in several different aspects. It never happens.
For someone that the coaches obviously want to take on a bigger role, there’s a reason he’s never had more than 30 carries or 20 receptions in any year. The clock now just may be ticking for Dunbar because of the “fourth Beatle.”
Last year, Ryan Williams did everything possible to make this team and was one of the last cuts before the roster was finalized. While he didn’t make it, the Cowboys thought enough of his effort to give him a guaranteed contract in order to stash him on the practice squad.
This year, while it’s early, it seems that Williams is at it again. Current Cowboys announcer Babe Laufenberg offered his take on Williams via The Dallas Morning News by saying:
"“He’s motivated. He’s tough. He’s got a burst. I think he’s an inside and outside runner. I don’t know if he has an advantage, per se, but I can see him getting 10-15 carries next year.”"
If Williams is going to make the roster this time around, he will either need to be that good as a runner or all of a sudden make his presence felt in special teams, be it as a returner or a play-making tackler. It’s rare that the third running back on a roster does not contribute in some way to that aspect of the game.
Personally, I’m not as high on McFadden as others are and I’m kind of tired of waiting on Dunbar as well. While I don’t really care who gets the playing time as long as they produce, I do want to see what Randle can do with the lion’s share of the carries. Whoever has the most juice between the other three can help clean that proverbial bone off.
One thing is certain. This season will not be a replication of 2014. This will be more of a running back by committee situation but the lead chair can and will be won in times like this by showing the coaches the versatility necessary.
Hit the holes hard. Protect the football. Protect the quarterback. Make catches out of the backfield. Do all this and you just might be the next in a long line of the greatness that is the Dallas Cowboys running back position.
Who wants it?