One of the main concerns the Dallas Cowboys have had about running back Joseph Randle throughout his career is beginning to show itself on the field. During the off season, Dallas refused to name Randle the starter in the backfield and many so-called insiders opined that it was due to the organization’s lack of trust in the third-year-player’s maturity.
The idea that Randle lacks maturity and self-control began when he was arrested for stealing underwear and cologne from a Dallas department store in October of 2014. Link After his arrest, videos of Randle making jokes and acting foolish while in police custody were made public further tarnishing the public’s view of the former Oklahoma State Cowboy. Link
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Less than four months later, in February of this year the native of Wichita, Kansas was arrested in his hometown for suspicion of marijuana possession after police responded to a call concerning possible domestic violence. Link
While neither incident resulted in significant punishment (his arrest for theft was settled out of court and he received only a citation for the incident in Kansas), Randle’s actions were troubling in light of the fact that he was in line to be the starting running back for the Dallas Cowboys this season.
Eventually, Randle was named the starter but his performance through four games has been lackluster at best. On 59 carries this year, Joseph Randle is averaging only 3.9 yards per carry and he has gained only 11 first downs.
And while his production is a major concern, it can be partially explained away by the absences of Pro Bowl wide receiver Dez Bryant and Pro Bowl quarterback Tony Romo. However, what can’t be excused is Randle’s poor decision-making on the field.
For two weeks in a row, Randle has upset his coaches by attempting to dive for a touchdown at the goal line and exposing the football to the defense. On Sunday night against the New Orleans Saints, Randle actually had the ball knocked out of his hands while attempting to dive over the pile but was fortunate to have instant replay show that the ball had first crossed the goal line.
Despite the fact that Randle was credited with a touchdown, he drew the ire the Cowboys’ coaching staff. Though the team lost running back Lance Dunbar to injury, Randle touched the ball only four more times during the game giving way to backup Darren McFadden.
"After the game, Cowboys’ head coach Jason Garrett addressed the situation saying, “That is something we discussed with him and our other running backs how we want to handle that situation. It’s a dangerous play when you extend the ball like that.” LinkHowever, Dallas owner and general manager Jerry Jones is defending Randle, telling a local Dallas radio station, “No, we didn’t bench him. We did not bench him. We just wanted [Darren] McFadden in there at that time. Seriously, it was not a bench.” Link"
But with Jones’ track record of defending his player to a fault, his comments should be taken with a grain of salt.
Now the question that Cowboys’ fans are asking is whether Randle’s lack of production combined with his lack of maturity on the field is going to lead to a shakeup in the running back rotation.
With Dunbar gone for the season, Christine Michael is sure to see more action at running back this week against the New England Patriots. Ironically Michael, who was acquired via trade from the Seattle Seahawks after the season started, is also known for being immature and untrustworthy. Link
However, many football writers say that Michael, who is larger than any back on the Cowboy’s roster, is more gifted than Randle and could eventually usurp the incumbent starter. But according to Jones, there is no set starter for this week.
"“Well, I don’t know how they’ll line up, but that sequence or that goal-line play wouldn’t impact who starts out the game,” Jones said. “But I’m not hedging at all, we’ll just see how they look in practice this week.” Link"
With the Dallas Cowboys’ offense decimated by injury every scoring opportunity is critical. Furthermore, the each player must play to his highest level in order for Dallas to survive until Bryant and Romo return.
Thus far, Randle has given more ammunition to those who doubted his ability to be a starting running back through his mediocre performance and his questionable decision-making. While Randle may continue to be the lead back for Dallas, if he does not immediately begin to show signs of maturity, he may blow his only chance to prove that he is capable of being a starting tailback in the NFL.