Having your featured back named to the Pro Bowl will go a long way toward building faith in a team's running game. In earning his first trip to Hawaii, Dallas Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray carried the ball 217 times for 1,121 yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground while also adding an additional 350 yards and another score through the air. The effort was enough to rank the third-year player in the league's top ten running backs last season. Murray achieved this feat despite missing two starts on the season.
"DeMarco Murray had a very good year for us – stayed healthy for the most part. If he had stayed healthy in other years he probably would have similar numbers and similar production" - Jason Garrett
The fact that Murray was available for 14 games was an achievement in itself. In 2012 the Cowboys top runner missed action in six games, and during his rookie season, after taking over the starting role midway through the year, Murray also had his season cut short due to injury. Although coaches and fans could clearly see the ability he possessed, there were significant concerns about his durability.
It was those concerns that motivated the Cowboys to invest a 2013 draft pick in a second feature back who runs with a similar style to DeMarco Murray. Although Joseph Randle saw only limited action while serving as Murray's back up, he did start two games when the Pro Bowler was unable to answer the bell. In total, Randle carried the ball a total of 54 times for 164 yards and two rushing touchdowns. Once Murray returned to the line up, Randle found his opportunities limited due to the fact that the starter went on a tear, racking up the yards in chunks. Still, the team was well satisfied with his efforts.
"We really have a lot of promise for Randle – he’s every bit the player I thought he was going to be when we drafted him." - Jerry Jones
The fact that the Cowboys have two young players, both still playing on their rookie contracts, who they feel can fulfill the requirements of being the featured back has renewed the team's faith in its running game. Even better is the fact that the team also has another young guy who displayed some serious potential as the Cowboys change of pace back. Second year undrafted free agent Lance Dunbar also flashed a glimpse of what he brings to the table before having his season ended due to a knee injury. After dealing with some fumble issues that undoubtedly impacted his playing time early in the season, Dunbar responded with 30 carries for 150 yards on the season. The bulk of his efforts came against the Oakland Raiders during the traditional Thanksgiving Day game. In that match-up, Lance was well on his way to having a game to remember, 82 yards on just 12 carries, when he went down with a season-ending injury. As of right now, Dallas has every reason to expect he will be ready to roll when team activities resume, and that Dunbar will prove to be the perfect contrast to Murray and Randle's running style next season.
All told, the Dallas corps of running backs appears to be a position of depth for the team, assuming that they can remain healthy. Based on past history, the front office is not without concerns, but those are slight according to Jerry Jones.
"I’m troubled, but not to the extent that I want to do anything about it."
"I like where we are at running back, and it would have to be a pretty unique situation – but those are there in the draft – to draft another running back, but we’ve got some pretty good competition there, especially if we want to keep a fullback on the roster." - Jerry Jones
What those "unique situations" would be, Jones did not add. Still, from what he stated, it seems that Dallas is not overly concerned about bringing in another man to compete for a slot at running back. Considering the abundance of needs that the team has at other positions, that is a good thing.
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