Dallas Cowboys: Dissecting the running backs
By Brian Martin
The 2015 NFL season is officially underway with the completion of the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots.
The Dallas Cowboys organization has all their attention focused on the division rival New York Giants, who they face Sunday night in Week One.
The most interesting storyline heading into the week one matchup is how the running back situation will look and how with the carries be divided up?
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The interesting thing about all of the running backs on the Cowboys roster is that each individual running back has a different type of skill set than the other. Thus far throughout training camp and the preseason no one has really been able to determine what their role will be within the offensive scheme and that is why all eyes will be on the running back position.
Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar, and recently added Christine Michael are all capable of adding a different dimension for the offense and it will be interesting to see how offensive coordinator Scott Linehan decides to get them involved.
The only thing that we as fans really know is that it is going to be a running back by committee approach to start off the season until someone finally separates himself to claim the number one running back spot.
Head coach Jason Garrett doesn’t even really sound concerned about not having a clear-cut starter lining up behind quarterback Tony Romo in the backfield. Garrett just wants everyone to be as prepared as possible when the lights come on Sunday night.
"“It doesn’t matter,” Garrett said. “The only thing that matters is everybody getting ready to play and when their number is called upon, be ready to go out there and be their best.”"
Preparation and consistency are probably going to be the key attributes in determining how the carries will be split between the running backs.
I fully expect Joseph Randle to get the first carries against the Giants. He has received the majority carries throughout the off-season with the first-team offense, and I believe that will carry over to Sunday night.
If it wasn’t for his off the field immaturity there would probably be less concern about him being available for the entire season. He complimented DeMarco Murray, last years starter very well with his few carries and the Cowboys believe he can be a starter in the NFL. There are however those immaturity concerns that need to be addressed.
Darren McFadden is a huge question mark. He has battled hamstring injuries throughout the off-season and has only received a few carries in the preseason. There is no doubt that McFadden might just be the best all-around running back on the team, but with his history of injuries can be really counted upon to remain healthy for an entire season.
If McFadden can remain healthy he could become a type of back that everyone envisioned coming out of Arkansas. He might actually benefit the most from a running back committee because it would be less wear and tear on his body and help him remain healthy for an entire season.
Lance Dunbar is kind of the wildcard to me. I don’t really know where he fits in or how the Cowboys plan to use him. We’ve heard for a few years now that he should be more involved with the offense and maybe this year will be the year that we finally get to see what he has to offer.
I don’t really see him getting more than just a few touches a game and I think it will mostly come in the passing game where he can be split out and create a mismatch with linebackers. Like McFadden, Dunbar has also struggled staying healthy so far during his career in a Cowboys uniform.
That brings us to the running back the organization decided to trade for from the Seattle Seahawks, Christine Michael.
Personally, I really like the signing because it finally provides the Cowboys with a running back that can hopefully come in and pick up those tough “dirty” yards.
Michael is a compact powerful running back and that is something the offense was missing. Randle, McFadden, Dunbar are all competent backs but none of them really run with the type of ferocity and power that Michael does.
It will be really interesting to see how fast he can get a handle on the playbook and become a factor in the running game.
With one of the best offensive lines in the NFL I don’t really see much of a slack in production in the running game, but I do wonder how each running backs different skill set will be utilized.
I think as of season progresses Cowboys fans will be left wondering why they ever doubted the organization’s decision not to re-sign the 2014 rushing leader DeMarco Murray.
I for one can’t wait for Sunday night and I will be keeping a close eye on the running back position in particular.
How do you see the running back position working out?