I've been reading Blogging the Boys for a few years now, and I decided it was time to start contributing to the Dallas Cowboys community. So, bear with me now as I get the hang of how to effectively communicate my message to all of my fellow Dallas Cowboy faithful. For my first article, I would like to explore a topic which has concerned me for some time now. This topic of course is the running back position for the Cowboys.
Let me be clear, when I say the running back position concerns me, I don't mean DeMarco Murray concerns me, talent-wise. Murray's talent was evident early on in his career, as I'm sure we all remember his record-setting day October 23, 2011. For those who are not aware, this was the date on which DeMarco set the all time record for rushing yards in a game with 253 yards....on only 25 carries. Yes DeMarco looks like the real deal at running back. One could even argue that Murray has top five running back potential...when he is healthy.
That last little bit I snuck in there is the issue that frustrates all of us Cowboys fans about Murray. This kid has so much ability, but he seems to be one of those players who just cannot stay away from injury. So what do we do about it? We got out and draft Joseph Randle. Is it just me and my Cowboys bias, or does this look like a great pick? Randle appears to be a very similar running back to Murray. They both have a similar running style, and Randle is valuable in the passing game. Playing in the shotgun for most of his college career, he is adept at pass blocking, and he is also an above average receiver. Randle appears to have three down potential as a running back, and if nothing else, he should fit in perfectly to the Dallas offense while giving Murray a breather, or having to pick up Murray's slack in the case of an injury. Either way, Randle gives us another safe option to take some wear and tear off of Murray and is a cheap insurance policy at the cost of only a fifth round pick.
The top two backs are set in stone, but that is not the purpose of this article. I'm just now getting to the meat. I have major concerns about the next two spots on the running back depth chart. I don't even think it is worth my time to explain why Phillip Tanner should not be on the roster, we all saw him disappoint last season. Lance Dunbar on the other hand could still be on the roster. I personally saw Dunbar show a flash here or there last season, but I don't think it is enough. The way I look at it, averaging 3.6 yards per carry on 21 carries and 6 receptions is not a solid "change of pace" back. Enter Kendial Lawrence, singed as an undrafted free agent out of Missouri. Lawrence was easily one of the quietest 1,000 yard rushers in college football last season. What stands out to me about Lawrence is how he managed to put up such staggering numbers behind an absolutely terrible offensive line. I fully expect Lawrence to make a major push during the off-season and possibly make the final roster. Lawrence's mid 4.30's 40 yard dash range should elevate him to become our change of pace back.
Assuming Dallas keeps four backs on the roster, the fourth spot is a complete wild card. And this is what I think we need: a power running back. Why do I say this? Let's look back at the 2007 season when Dallas went 13-3. What was the difference that season? The Cowboys could close out close games. In 2011, Dallas blew five fourth quarter leads, I don't have the exact numbers for the 2012 season, but by the eye test there were five games that could have been won if the Cowboys could have closed the game, excluding the second Washington game, Chicago game, and the Seattle game. Now I know there are a lot of different things that go into it, but what was the major asset we had when it came to closing games?
Marion Barber. Remember that guy? When we went into the fourth quarter with a lead, it was almost guaranteed that Barber was going to pound the ball and close the game. I firmly believe the Dallas needs to add a power running back who can enter the game in the fourth quarter, with fresh legs, and pound the ball while closing out the game. But there are a few other advantages to a power running back as well. One could help aid the Cowboy's redzone woes, and one could also save some more wear and tear on Murray and Randle by letting them essentially sit out the fourth quarter as long as all is going according to plan.
Looking at the draft in hindsight, if we were going to take a skill player at pick 47, I might have given Eddie Lacy a look, but I cannot fault the Escobar pick, I think he will help elevate the team in his own way. There should be some viable candidates looking for jobs once teams around the league start making cuts.
But when it is all said and done, I would be ecstatic to see the 2013 Cowboys running back depth chart include Murray, Randle, Lawrence, and a power running back.