It took all of about two days for the Dallas Cowboys plan to replace last year’s league Offensive Player of the Year to be revealed.
Per a tweet on Friday from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the starting running back job is Joseph Randle’s to lose. He continued to say that through a source within the team, the Cowboys expect big things from Randle, love his vision and explosiveness.
Is it possible that this is some elaborate smoke screen that the Cowboys are trying to put up while they maintain patience to see if things shake out on the free agency wire?
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I highly doubt it.
I truly believe that Cowboys management wants desperately to be right about Randle.
From sticking with him through his off the field transgressions to sticking to a self-imposed cap on what they would spend to retain DeMarco Murray to not drafting or signing any big name players in the offseason, all signs have pointed to this scenario.
It certainly makes sense from the business side of things. Randle is signed through next season and will not cost the Cowboys more than $750,000 total in either year. If he has a breakout year in 2015 and wants to hold out next season, Dallas is certainly battle tested to play that game.
On the flip side of that coin, if he fails to produce or continues his mental mistakes away from the football field, it does not cost Dallas anything in terms of a salary cap hit to release him and start fresh in next year’s draft.
As far as his talent is concerned, it’s hard for anyone outside the Cowboys walls to truly assess. Since we don’t see what the coaching staff sees day in and day out, we must trust those who are in place to make those decisions.
The common refrain from the doubters always comes back to the lack of an established body of work. Wouldn’t that same excuse be true if the Cowboys drafted someone?
Personally, I feel it’s more impressive to see runs like these against the Seahawks, Jaguars, Bears and Redskins than it is to see someone slice up the bottom feeders of the SEC, Big 12 or Pac 12.
It’s not like Randle has a tough road ahead in relation to his competition for the main spot either. Yes, the Cowboys brought in former top five draft pick Darren McFadden and seemingly are always holding out hope that incumbent Lance Dunbar can turn into something more.
McFadden, however, already a hamstring in OTA’s and starts out camp on the Active/PUP list due to the same exact issue. I am not a doctor or anything, but I am pretty sure leg injuries, however minor they may appear, are not exactly a good sign for a player whose main job it is to run the football.
Given that he also has missed 19 games over the last four seasons, durability will always be a question for McFadden.
As far as Dunbar is concerned, even in a best case scenario situation for the Cowboys, he is not going to end up as the feature back on this team.
So everything circles back to Randle. It appears he knows this as well. He certainly sounds more mature in his interviews as you can see from his comments here on the official website of the Dallas Cowboys:
"“I’m just trying to focus on my job. I’m going to approach every day and work the hardest that I can. I can’t worry about the outcome. I just go out and focus on each day and the grind. I’m trying to get better at every little thing to take my game to the next level.”"
Last year going into training camp, no one would have thought Murray would end the season as the all-time single season leader in rushing yards for a team with a storied history at that position. In 2015, it’s time for another running back to raise the bar and exceed expectations as well.
If that occurs, something “Super” could be in the cards for these Cowboys.