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Cowboys Camp Battles: Quarterback And Running Back

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While Tony Romo gets a few days off, Kyle Orton is reminding people why the Dallas Cowboys signed him.
While Tony Romo gets a few days off, Kyle Orton is reminding people why the Dallas Cowboys signed him.

Even though only some of the players are participating, the start of pre-season practices for the Dallas Cowboys is immensely satisfying for me. At long last, there are real, football-playing developments to write about. And while I am, and will continue to be, dependent on the eyes of others who actually are watching things, there is a lot already going on.

Related: Top Five Dallas Cowboys Training Camp Battles/Storylines For 2012 [Video]

In looking at the training camp battles this year, I am combining two positions for this post, quarterback and running back. Mainly, it is because there is a small number of names for each one, and also because for these offensive positions, the starters are all firmly set, as well as the number two guy in each case. The camp battles here are all for backup slots - and there has already been one surprise development.

These are also two positions at which the Cowboys are in good to very good shape, at least as far as the starter is concerned. Coincidentally, Ryan Van Bibber at SBNation has done his annual pre-season ranking of NFL quarterback units, and he has the Cowboys at number eight.

The media's bizarre relationship with Tony Romo makes it easy to forget that he is also a pretty good quarterback. He threw 31 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions in 16 starts last season. If only he could have stepped in at cornerback for the Cowboys last year. Dallas made a great move to grab Kyle Orton as a backup.

As much as I want to build a case that Romo is actually one of the top five quarterbacks, Van Bibber's evaluation is probably a more objective one, based on the body of work so far. And it is also very perceptive in the cornerback comment, acknowledging that the success and failure of the Cowboys is rooted in a lot more than the guy who takes snaps on offense.

My position by position, name by name breakdown after the jump.

As with almost every position on the team this year, it seems that a lot depends on just how many players the Cowboys will keep at each role.


Player Comments Chances

Tony Romo

Romo needs just one thing to quiet the critics and be acknowledged as one of the best in the NFL: Playoff success. This year, the Cowboys are making a major effort to put the pieces in place around him for that to happen.

It's his team now.

Kyle Orton

Called "the best backup QB in the NFL" by many, Orton gives the team superb depth here. In his "Scout's Notebook" piece on 7/25, Bryan Broaddus gave this evaluation: "There is no doubt about Orton’s arm strength, but he also has very good, deep ball touch. Was really impressed with his ability to lay the ball in there for receivers to handle."

It's great to have him - as long as he stays on the bench.

Stephen McGee

The OTAs and minicamp were uneven for him, and early reports indicate it has been the same so far in the pre-season practices. He may be feeling the pressure and pushing too hard, or he just may not have what it takes. One way or another, he will likely have to make a very strong showing the rest of the way and have Jason Garrett decide he just has to have that third quarterback on the roster.

Fighting for his roster spot - and not doing too well

Rudy Carpenter

He is the main only competition for McGee, and he gives the team the option of putting him on the practice squad. If the team goes with just two quarterbacks on the 53 man roster, that would make Carpenter a pretty automatic choice to try and get through waivers. So far, there is no word on whether he is looking any better than McGee on the field.

I'm betting he makes the PS and McGee is history

Running Back

Player Comments Chances

DeMarco Murray

All indications are he is completely back from his season-ending leg injury. If the offensive line does a better job opening some holes, this could be a big year for him.

I look for 1,000+ yards from him.

Felix Jones

Dallas' change of pace running back, he can also be a receiving threat lining up outside the tackles. He is very useful providing a big play threat - he just does not need to be used to fill in for Murray if something happens to him. This is also the last year of his rookie contract, so he has all the motivation in the world to do his best.

He's not going anywhere - this year.

Phillip Tanner

Another injury victim last year, Tanner never got much of a chance to show what he could do in the regular season. He has the advantage of experience in the system, and is a better choice to fill in for Murray than Jones is.

The third spot is probably his to lose

Lance Dunbar

Where Tanner looks to be a good backup for Murray, Dunbar seems to be very similar to Felix Jones in what he brings. He has done well so far and this week is getting a lot of looks without the vets around. I think the team should think long and hard about keeping a fourth running back if he continues to do well. I really would like the team to keep him.

It may come down to where the team invests the roster spots.

Ed Wesley

He is that sudden development I mentioned earlier. When Darrell Scott failed his physical, the team signed Wesley, who had declared for the supplemental draft but not been selected. The TCU product made it to practice, and has already been called a better option than Scott. First reports are encouraging, and he could push Tanner and Dunbar.

Still a long shot, but possible PS material.