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Cowboys 2015 Offseason: Looking Back To Find The Way Forward At Running Back

The Cowboys may have to rely on little-used running backs Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar this season. A look back at the big win over the Seahawks last season may be a reason to feel better about that.

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Although the Dallas Cowboys do not seem to be in any kind of panic over things, the running back situation continues to cause quite a bit of concern and scrutiny among fans and writers alike. Accordingly, there was a bit of a stir when it was reported that the team had worked out both former Cowboy Felix Jones and former Texan Ben Tate. There were a lot of hot takes like this one.

Well, this was not really such a big deal. The Cowboys work out players all the time, and there were other running backs and some wide receivers as well that came in for the team to take a closer look. It never hurts to check out what is available on the street. This was how Ryan Williams wound up getting signed last season. And this is how the team can build a list of possible contingency hires should injury or other developments leave them needing quick reinforcements during the season. It is a process going on all over the NFL on a fairly continuous basis.

This does nothing to alleviate the concerns expressed about the perceived oversight in not drafting or otherwise acquiring better options for replacing the production of DeMarco Murray, now sporting Philadelphia Eagles colors. Little confidence is being inspired by the group of Williams, Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar, and UDFA Synjyn Days currently on hand.

Those who have a bit of faith in the Dallas front office feel that the team sees more in the current alternatives than most outsiders, and there are certainly fans who think Randle and Dunbar in particular were more underused than lacking in ability. Coincidentally, I was reminded today of an article that I posted here after the Cowboys' victory over the Seattle Seahawks last season. It was a remarkable game, and perhaps the point at which the league was forced to sit up and take notice that something good was happening with the Cowboys. But is was also a game where both Randle and Dunbar got a moment to shine, which was why I chose them as two of a group of role players that deserved notice in the game.

Joseph Randle. He came in to spell Murray, and promptly ripped off a 38-yard run. He finished with five carries for 52 yards and probably would have had more if the Cowboys had not hit the rough patch in the third quarter that led to the coaches reportedly keeping Murray in for his superior pass protection. And he absolutely crushed Percy Harvin on one kick return.

Lance Dunbar. We have been hearing since the offseason how the team, or more specifically Scott "The Offensive Genius" Linehan was going to work him in more, but had yet to see it. Against Seattle, he had four catches for 48 yards, including a couple of crucial third down conversions that featured him having to get past the yellow lines with his legs after the catch. On one of them, the defenders just looked mired in molasses as he darted past them.

Outside the pass blocking consideration, those are some very good indications that the Cowboys may indeed have something with these two backs. When given the touches, both were very productive and made significant contributions to one of the biggest games in the 12-4 season.

It is only one performance, but remember that neither player saw many opportunities last year. When they did get a significant chance to play, in a highly important game against one of the most capable defenses in the league, they stood and delivered.

It is no guarantee, but it is an encouraging sign. While, as Stephen Jones has steadfastly maintained, the team is always looking to find a way to improve, it may have the answer it needs already. Dunbar is of course a change of pace back, but Randle has the skill set to be a primary rusher. He still has to keep out of trouble off the field. Should he do that, he has shown that he can succeed against the best in the NFL.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB

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