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Cowboys Lineup Changes: Christine Michael for Joseph Randle And La'el Collins For Ron Leary?

The change at QB may have been the most anticipated lineup change, but it's likely not going to be the only one.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Ed Werder of ESPN was the first to break the news yesterday that the Cowboys will give Matt Cassel the start over Brandon Weeden in their next game.

Switching out the (backup) QBs certainly was the most anticipated lineup change for the Cowboys, but it may not be the only lineup change the Cowboys are contemplating as they get back to work during their bye week. In fact, Ed Werder suggests that there might be changes coming at running back and at guard.

At first glance, this may seem a little odd. Christine Michael has had exactly one snap in each of the last two games. Did those two snaps merit an increased workload, and if they did, why wasn't his workload increased during those two games? Interestingly though, both of Michael's carries came on 3rd-and-1, so that may be an indication of what the Cowboys are looking for from him.

If we take the report at face value, this could mean that the Cowboys are perhaps looking to use Joseph Randle more as the change of pace back (a role in which Randle averaged 6.7 YPA last year), and would look at Christine Michael and Darren McFadden to share the lead back role, with Michael perhaps being the guy for the "dirty runs," a key element of the Cowboys game last year, as Garrett explained in January, but woefully missing this year.

Q: You talk a lot about "dirty runs" at this time of the year. Can you define what a dirty run is?

Garrett: A lot of people get enamored with the longer run. The 10-, 12-, 16-, 20-yard run.

So much of the game, at this level, particularly at this time of the year, is the 2-, 3-, 4-yard run where the runner is finishing forward and you’re putting yourself in a manageable third down situation.

If you look at DeMarco’s runs all year long, that’s what he’s been able to do. He has some real signature runs, some plays where he’s really broken out of there, [where] we blocked well at the second level, [where] receivers have blocked well, and it’s a big run that really impacts the game.

But the greater impact comes from play after play after play, being able to run the ball and getting downhill against the defense. We’ve been very, very good on third down all year long. A big reason is we’ve been in manageable thirds, a big reason for that is this guy running north and south.

Our ability to come off the football and be physical. His ability to run and finish runs. I think it’s had a big impact on our team.

At guard, Ronald Leary has struggled with a groin injury that saw him miss two games, and didn't look good against the Patriots. In his two games subbing for an injured Leary, La'el Collins wasn't flawless, but looked better against the run.

With the change at QB, the Cowboys are trying to address their deficiencies in the passing game. With these reported changes at RB and guard, the Cowboys look to be addressing their deficiencies in the ground game.

The Cowboys hope to get Dez Bryant back after the bye, though that's not confirmed yet, and his return would be another significant shot in the arm for the passing game.

Similarly, while it's unlikely the Cowboys will change much about their defensive lineup, Randy Gregory's potential return after the bye could provide an extra boost for the defense as well.

Hopefully all of this will be enough to pull out a win against the Giants.


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