The Dallas Cowboys have been suffering from many problems this season, and far from the least of them has been the disappearance of the ground game. They are dead last in the league, with 78.7 yards per game. And the number has been trending downward as the team has fought through injuries both to the running backs and the offensive line.
With playoff hopes that are just barely clinging to life, Dallas badly needs a victory against the Philadelphia Eagles, a team that is suffering from a few injury issues itself. Getting a credible running threat back would go a long ways towards helping them get another win and stay alive as the season winds down.
The news about re-establishing the ground game continues to be encouraging. DeMarco Murray, who has been out since injuring his ankle on October 14, saw his second day of practice, and Felix Jones, who had some knee issues in the last game, was also on the field. Both were listed as limited, but there is a growing feeling that Murray is going to see his first playing time since he was injured, and Jones is likely to be available to spell him.
While no one on the Cowboys will be unhappy to see Murray back in action, there is also a sense of caution not to expect him to solve everything just by showing up. Star TE Jason Witten knows that the ground game is not just the guy carrying the ball.
"He's a dynamic back, there's no question about that," tight end Jason Witten said. "But again, we can't expect him to be something more. We've got to give him holes and opportunities to run the ball."
Opening those holes is, of course, affected by the problems the Cowboys have also been having on the offensive line. The news there is encouraging as well, as Ryan Cook has returned to practice at center. While the team is as cautious about his status as it is about Murray's, the general feel from all the comments and reports is that he is likely to be ready for Sunday night. This means that Mackenzy Bernadeau should be able to return to his normal position at right guard, and Derrick Dockery to his natural place on the bench. Based on what I have read, this not only upgrades the guard play, but also has a beneficial effect on RT Doug Free, who seems more comfortable with Bernadeau at his shoulder. And according to Bill Callahan, injured LT Tyron Smith should also be available, which means that the line will be playing four starters and only one backup, all in their normal places. It should lead to some more opportunities for whoever is carrying the football.
I wish the news was as good on the defensive side of the ball, but it isn't, with S Charlie Peprah turning up with a foot injury today. And if it seems to you that this has been an unusual year for injuries, this might interest you.
#Cowboys haven’t had 4 D starters go down with season-ending injuries since 2000. Since 2001, most lost for season in same year has been 2.— Brandon George (@dmn_george) November 29, 2012
They are at four and counting, and Orlando Scandrick, who is roughly equivalent to a starter as the nickle corner, is likely out for at least the regular season. He may be available for any postseason games, but of course the team has to get to the postseason. But if the Cowboys can get something resembling an effective running attack, that may be a little more likely than we thought.