As my esteemed colleague, One Cool Customer, has already noted; Tony Romo headlines the list of Dallas Cowboys who are returning from injury to participate in the so called voluntary activities now under way at Valley Ranch. The Dallas passer rightfully generates the most excitement among fans but there is another face that should not be overlooked. With the way that new "passing game coordinator" Scott Linehan likes to use his running backs, Lance Dunbar has an opportunity to add his spark as well. He too is making his return to action after suffering a season ending injury against the Oakland Raiders last season.
During the annual Thanksgiving Day contest Dunbar was having the game of his young professional career before suffering a devastating knee injury. While filling in for the team's top runner, DeMarco Murray, Dunbar slashed the silver and black clad Raiders for 82 yards on the ground and added an additional 12 yards through the air. Fans were finally seeing what was expected from the young jitterbug. The excitement of having a pair of backs who could damage opposing defenses was thick in the air of Cowboys Stadium for the first three quarters of the game. Unfortunately, the air was let out of that balloon when Dunbar went down in the game's closing stanza. Still we were treated to a glimpse of what could be.
Now he is back, and for the 2014 season Dunbar is paired up with a play-caller who loves to run quick passes out of the backfield. With his jitterbug running style, small size, and elusiveness Lance Dunbar and Scott Linehan should be a marriage to make the Dallas faithful happy. His presence will add an additional facet to a Dallas offense that was far too one-dimensional during the 2013 campaign. As a one-two punch with the previously mentioned Murray, Tony Romo has the potential to lead an offense where the ground game is as lethal to the opposition as his air attack is.
Lance Dunbar will never be a lead back in the NFL. At 5'8" and 188 pounds, he lacks the size necessary to be the workhorse. That does not mean that he cannot be a viable weapon if used properly. He is a role player who can be a difference maker if the team gets him involved. Scott Linehan has a proven history of doing just that with his backs, and can be expected to try to do so with Lance Dunbar. The biggest thing standing in his way is the health of the young runner, and that appears to be something that is not going to be a concern for now. As Todd Archer summed up over at ESPNDallas.com:
So when the Cowboys see Dunbar running sprints at Valley Ranch this week, just know, a few offensive coaches are pretty happy.
Although there are some questions about his long term durability that will still remain to be seen, for now I wouldn't doubt that a certain Dallas QB is equally pleased to see an additional weapon back in his arsenal as well.