Once the 2014 NFL season ended, all eyes were on the Dallas Cowboys’ running back “situation”. The big question always involved the offensive player of the year and NFL leading rusher, former Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray. His contract negotiations dominated the headlines until Murray decided to join the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Cowboys signed free agent running back Darren McFadden, formerly of the Oakland Raiders. I’ve never believed that McFadden was brought in to be “the answer”. The Cowboys love to foster competition at nearly every position. The exception is the quarterback spot because like it or not, this team belongs to quarterback Tony Romo. Like others, I wonder would McFadden be on the roster if he hadn’t attended the University of Arkansas, like Cowboys owner / general manager Jerry Jones.
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Joseph Randle, the starting running back heir apparent was supposed to face competition from McFadden and Ryan Williams. Unfortunately, Williams’ knee wouldn’t allow him to compete and he was released before the team boarded the plane to training camp in Oxnard, California. Head coach Jason Garrett would’ve loved to see Randle compete against McFadden. Garrett won’t get the chance because McFadden has an injured hamstring.
To keep competition alive, Cowboy Nation is always getting bombarded with lists of running backs that the Cowboys should, could or might attempt to sign or trade for. In my opinion, it’s very doubtful that the Cowboys sign a starting or backup running back from another NFL team. Usually this list includes: Ray Rice, Stephen Jackson, Chris Johnson and Ahmad Bradshaw, but a running back signed now would face a huge learning curve. In addition to learning the playbook, the running back has to understand and be comfortable running behind our zone blocking scheme.
Cowboy Nation is usually infatuated with signing big names to one year contracts. Instead, we should start allowing young guys to become big names over a four / five year period. I sort our running backs by size, based on a rough combination of height and weight – Randle & McFadden (Medium), Lance Dunbar and Lache Seastrunk (Small), Gus Johnson, Ray Agnew and Tyler Clutts (Big).
2015 Cowboys Running Backs
|Tyler Clutts (FB)|
|Ray Agnew (FB)|
There’s no method to my madness, but without McFadden, Randle is the only medium on the roster. The roster still has room for competition. Many question the durability of “small” running backs. I find myself falling into that trap, but we would’ve missed the outstanding careers of Emmitt Smith (5′ 9”, 215), Barry Sanders (5′ 8”, 200) and Warrick Dunn (5′ 9”, 187). My point being that there’s no reason to place the smaller backs in a “complementary” role and exclude them from the competition of becoming the starting running back.
My bold prediction – Randle does become the starter with Seastrunk and Johnson as the backups. Agnew enters as the fullback because given a choice, I pick the younger, cheaper player. I would cut Dunbar based on his salary, unless he looks amazing as a kickoff and punt returner on special teams. Otherwise, having Dunbar earn three times more than Randle this year could upset team chemistry in the locker room.
There’s a phrase in racing called – “Run what you brung”. It simply means compete with what you have. If you consider smaller guys like Dunbar or Seastrunk as an every down back in this league, there’s no reason our Cowboys need to bring in another free agent or execute a trade. Even without McFadden, this team can be very successful running what they brung.
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