On Tuesday the good folks at NFL Network released a video through social media in which analyst Heath Evans revealed his selections for the league's five best running back groups. Although his task was to find the best groups of runners, Evans admits right off the bat that his list is basically of the top five individual backs. To prove his point, he selects the Minnesota Vikings as the team with the best running back group, almost solely because they have Adrian Peterson. You can watch Evans' analysis if you like by clicking the link in the embedded tweet.
Despite Mr. Evans going off the reservation with his analysis, this video did get me thinking about the Dallas Cowboys backfield. The front office invested a lot of capital in upgrading the running back position this offseason. In doing so they have taken a position that preformed adequately in 2015 and are attempting to transform it into a blunt force instrument with which to bludgeon opponents into submission.
The Cowboys signed veteran Alfred Morris away from Washington, and spent draft picks on backs Ezekiel Elliott (fourth overall) and Darius Jackson (216th). Incumbent starter Darren McFadden rushed for 1,089 yards in 2015 and was tied for second in the league with five 100-yard rushing games despite starting only ten games. The team will also be getting change-of-pace back Lance Dunbar back from injury. The Cowboys team site still has Rod Smith listed with this group but he has been getting a look at fullback so we'll exclude him for now.
Dallas doesn't figure to keep all five of these backs on the final roster. Many assumed that the team would look to move on from McFadden after the Elliott pick, but it appears that the team is looking to stick with both McFadden and fellow vet Morris for now at least. Elliott's selection may actually have the most impact on Dunbar. With Elliott's ability to catch the ball out of the backfield the oft-injured Dunbar may be on his way out in Big D. If Dunbar is released or traded that would open up a possible roster spot for the rookie Jackson. Otherwise the Cowboys may try to sneak Jackson onto the practice squad.
One of the major differences between the 2014 NFC East Champion Dallas Cowboys and their 2015 counterpart was the team's ability to run the football. Although the 2015 Cowboys were in the top ten in rushing yards, they were not nearly as efficient as the 2014 team. In an effort to return the the Cowboys to their winning ways, the Cowboys brain trust has made running the football an obvious priority. In the process, might the Dallas Cowboys have built the NFL's best backfield in 2016?