Dallas Cowboys: Will this Running Back make fans forget DeMarco?
With the Dallas Cowboys signing All-Pro wide recevier Dez Bryant to a five-year contract last week, one of the biggest offseason questions for this franchise has been answered. With training camp in Oxnard, California starting in less than two weeks, the biggest question going in to camp is: Who will be the starting running back for America’s Team?
There are certainly big shoes to fill in Dallas this season as last year’s starting running back, DeMarco Murray, led the NFL in rushing yards with 1,845 and 13 touchdowns on a league-leading 392 carries. Murray also led the league in rushing first downs (85) and, obviously, yards per game (115.3). This offseason, the Cowboys refused to re-sign DeMarco to a large contract due to his vast injury history, and he eventually found his payday with the Philadelphia Eagles.
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Following Murray’s exodus from Dallas this offseason, the Cowboys immediately signed veteran running back Darren McFadden as a response. Many believed Run DMC’s was signed to in fact replace DeMarco directly. But I believe it will be third-year back Joseph Randle that will secure that position this offseason. And Randle could play so well in fact, he could have Cowboys fans saying DeMarco who?
When the Cowboys drafted Randle in the fifth round in 2013, it was seen as a value selection. The former Oklahoma State Cowboy had fallen so low in the draft, that his talent level made his selection a no-brainier. At the time, the Cowboys really didn’t have a tremendous need at the position. Following the exit of former starting running back Felix Jones that offseason, third-year back DeMarco Murray was set for his first 1,000+ yard season. Back-up running backs Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner were also returning to the backfield. At the time, it wasn’t even a given that Randle would make the active roster. But he did, following a strong preseason showing that included a 70 rushing yards on just 13 attempts performance against the Miami Dolphins in the Hall of Fame game that year.
In his rookie season, Randle would garner the second most rushing attempts on the team behind Murray. He recorded 164 yards on the ground and scored two touchdowns on 54 attempts in 2013. Last season, Randle showed a vast improvement in his game not many noticed because of Murray’s gigantic numbers. But the second-year back actually recorded more yardage on less carries in 2014. Randle rushed for 343 yards and three scores on 51 carries. His 6.7 yard per carry average is one of the biggest reasons I believe he could eclipse Murray in the eyes of fans in 2015. And I’m not the only one.
"“Really difficult to compare runners. If you look at Earl Campbell and Dickerson and OJ Simpson and Emmitt Smith….all HOF runners, but all with completely different running styles,” answered former Cowboys quarterback Babe Laufenberg when he was asked to compare Murray and Randle in an article that appeared in the Dallas Morning News earlier this month. “Maybe the one thing that Randle gives you is a bit more breakaway speed. But I always ask one question when looking at a runner….can the other team get him to the ground? But Randle AVERAGED 6.7 yards per carry last year. That is staggering, no matter that there were only 51 carries.”"
That average would have made Randle the best running back in the NFL last season. If he had the carries Murray had last year (392 attempts) at that average, the former fifth round selection would have tallied 2,626 rushing yards. The NFL record for rushing yards in a season is 2,105, set by former St. Louis Rams running back Eric Dickerson back in 1983.
Now, by no means am I predicting Randle will break the league’s all-time rushing record next season. In fact, I don’t believe he will even match Murray’s totals from last year. But I do think Randle will do enough in 2015 to make fans forget about DeMarco Murray altogether.