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Could Cowboys Have Two 1,000 Yard Rushers In 2015?

Only six times in NFL history have two teammates rushed for more than 1,000 yards each in the same season. Could the 2015 Cowboys make it seven with their running-back-by-committee approach?

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

In 2013, the Dallas Cowboys ranked 31st in the league with just 336 rush attempts. The Cowboys then brought in Scott Linehan as offensive coordinator, a guy known for his pass-heavy offenses. And when that guy announced in May of 2014 that the running game "is going to be our strength," the more trollish observers and pundits covering the Cowboys couldn't hold back their derisive sneers and snarky laughter. Here's what Linehan said at the time:

"Things that were done last year in the running game with DeMarco, the running style that was created here is really a good fit," Linehan said recently on 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM]. "That’s going to be our strength, being able to lean on that running game a little bit more than they have in the past.

Linehan would later go on to explain that a strong running game was one of the main selling points in his discussion with Jason Garrett when the Cowboys hired Linehan in January 2014.

"He said ‘the No. 1 thing we’re going to do is we’re going to get this run game like the old days,’" Linehan said of Garrett. "He was thinking of the days when he was wearing a uniform here. That was loud and clear, and we were all-in, I was all-in from the get-go."

A year later, the Cowboys ranked second in the league with 147.1 yards per game; DeMarco Murray, the sixth running back taken in the 2011 draft, and previously known primarily for his propensity for getting injured, took the league's rushing title with 1,845 yards; and Jerry Jones walked away with the NFL Executive of the Year title in large part for the team's work in building one of the best offensive lines in the league.

As the Cowboys begin their preparations for 2015, Linehan maintains that the Cowboys' philosophy won't change, and that the team plans to remain run-heavy on offense, even without Murray.

"Bottom line is there’s certain things we feel very adamant about is going to be important and it’s no different really, same message that we had when we kind of started with ground zero last year," Linehan said. "I think if we do that and we go back to the basics and do those things well again, it will be benefit us as we move forward."

Once more, Linehan's statement is met by derisive sneers and snarky laughter by the more trollish observers and pundits covering the Cowboys. After all, the Cowboys can't possibly be any good on the ground without Murray, argue those pundits who have a hard time understanding the concept of cause and effect.

It's very likely that the Cowboys won't have a single running back in 2015 who'll repeat what Murray did last year. But it's not unreasonable to think that they'll repeat last year's 2,354-yard rushing totals as a team. Which then raises the question of how the Cowboys will split their yards among their stable of running backs. Instead of one running back rushing for almost 2,000 yards, how about two running backs rushing for 1,000 yards each?

This may sound reasonable at first glance, but Brandon Bate of Turf Show Times did the legwork on this and found that only six times in NFL history have two teammates rushed for more than 1,000 yards each in the same season.

Year Team Player 1 Yards Player 2 Yards
1972 Miami Dolphins Larry Csonka 1,117 Mercury Morris 1,000
1976 Pittsburgh Steelers Franco Harris 1,128 Rocky Bleier 1,036
1985 Cleveland Browns
Kevin Mack 1,104 Earnest Byner 1,002
2006 Atlanta Falcons Warrick Dunn 1,140 Michael Vick 1,039
2008 New York Giants Brandon Jacobs 1,089 Derrick Ward 1,025
2009 Carolina Panthers Jonathan Stewart 1,133 DeAngelo Williams 1,117

Last year, there were 14 players who rushed for 1,000+ yards, one more than in the previous season. So having one 1,000+ rusher on your team isn't exactly unusual, but having two is. So expecting two 1,000+ yard rushers for the Cowboys may seem like a bit of a stretch, but what if we relax the yardage requirements a little bit? Here's how the number of rushing duos breaks down by yardage in the Super Bowl era:

Two teammates with at least 1,000 rushing yards each in the same year: 6

Two teammates with at least 900 rushing yards each in the same year: 15

Two teammates with at least 800 rushing yards each in the same year: 38

Two teammates with at least 700 rushing yards each in the same year: 91

And then there's the curious case of the Carolina Panthers, who in 2011 achieved what no other team has done when they had three players with more than 700 rushing yards: RB DeAngelo Williams (836 yards), RB Jonathan Stewart (761), and QB Cam Newton (706).

What's your expectation of the Cowboys' running game this year?

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