Ever since the Dallas Cowboys let DeMarco Murray depart for Philadelphia there have been questions about that decision. One of the side discussions that will be taking place all season long will revolve around the wisdom in this choice. So how did they do in Week 1 of the running-back-by-committee approach?
During the Sunday night game the Cowboys ran the ball a total of 23 times. One of these carries was by Tony Romo for minus one yard. Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden combined for the other 22 carries with Randle getting the bulk of the action. He carried the ball 16 times for 65 yards, averaging just over four yards per carry. McFadden carried six times for an additional 16 yards. This 81 yards of rushing is a far cry from the series of 100 yard plus games that Murray provided to start the season, but the numbers are somewhat impacted by Dallas spending so much time playing catch up to the Giants.
Where the backs really factored into the offense is the passing game. Lance Dunbar led all receivers with 70 yards on eight catches. Randle and McFadden also got in on the action. Randle gained 42 yards on three catches and McFadden added one yard on his lone reception. In total the running backs were targeted a dozen times and hauled in all of them. The trio combined for 131 yards through the air.
The numbers through the air are impressive considering that the Cowboys are now without top wide out Dez Bryant. The RBs are going to have to continue to carry a large share of the passing game. Dunbar will be the biggest factor in this area but his counterparts are going to have to deliver as well. One game into the season it looks like they are doing just that.
On the ground they are still going to have to step it up. Playing with the lead will allow the backs to get more carries and presumably more yards. Randle's 65 yards leaves him on pace to have a thousand yard season, but just barely. McFadden's 2.66 yards per carry needs to improve or Dallas will have to give his touches to either Randle or Christine Michael. A combined 81 yards per game is going to be unacceptable behind the best offensive line in the league and no doubt Garrett and Linehan will be stressing this throughout the upcoming week. it will be a combined effort. The errors in the passing game will have to be eliminated to facilitate more rushing attempts, the line will have to keep progressing, and the backs will have to cash in on their opportunities.
The 212 combined yard was enough on Sunday night but there will come a time when Dallas will need more, especially on the ground. The focus this week should be on insuring that the Cowboys can run the ball. If they can do that and continue to use the backs as weapons in the passing game as well, they will be in good shape. The running back by committee is still a work in progress. The first fruits show the potential is there, but the Cowboys are going to have to continue to improve to replace what they lost in Murray.