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Wrapping Up The Offseason: Did The Cowboys Improve At Running Back?

Before the dead zone is over and the Cowboys head out to Oxnard, we ask if they have improved from 2015 to 2016?

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

[After that disastrous 2015 season, that saw the Cowboys go 4-12 thanks to the injury bug, we are going to examine the entire roster from top to bottom and ask:

Have the Dallas Cowboys improved?

That may seem like a loaded question but in terms of looking inside and out and taking every variable into the equation that question can be answered. Do you believe that the Cowboys improved from one year to the next?]

The most obvious position of improvement comes from the running back group that looks vastly different from last season to now.

Last Season:

RB1- Joseph Randle (started 6 games in 2015, was waived for legal troubles on Nov. 3rd)

RB1- Darren McFadden (1,089 yards in 10 starts, 4th in rushing total for 2015)

RB2- Lance Dunbar (Cowboys' leading receiver in first four games, tore ACL, MCL, Patellar tendon in Week 4)

RB3- Christine Michael (played in 5 games, waived on Nov. 17th)

RB4- Robert Turbin (signed Nov. 18th to backup McFadden, signed with Colts in free agency)

RB5- Rod Smith (claimed off waivers in October, appeared in 10 games, mainly on ST)

This Season:

RB1- Ezekiel Elliott (selected with fourth-overall pick in 2016 NFL Draft)

RB2- Darren McFadden (currently dealing with broken elbow)

RB3- Alfred Morris (signed in free agency)

RB4- Lance Dunbar (re-signed on one-year deal, PUP candidate)

RB5- Darius Jackson (drafted in sixth round from Eastern Michigan)

RB6- Rod Smith (converted to fullback due to obsession with dying position from coaching staff)

It's pretty clear that if at any position there is a vast improvement, it's at running back. The Cowboys made it a priority to get not only better but more dynamic at the position. It started with bringing in Alfred Morris, who had three straight seasons of 1,000-yard rushing totals before being supplanted in Washington. Though he has certainly trended down, the Cowboys believe they have the exact system in place behind the league's best offensive line for him to shine.

Darren McFadden is probably the best backup option to have as he can do a lot more as a running back than Alfred Morris. If McFadden were to have to step in, the Cowboys would feel comfortable with using him as their workhorse again. Now, if he can only avoid unnecessary injuries such as trying to save a $600 phone or slipping at the pool, whatever story they're going with this week.

Lance Dunbar finally seemed to have found where he can be most helpful, just about anybody could tell you that when he's in the game, look for the pass out of the backfield. Dunbar has also had issues with staying healthy, being injured in every season he's been in the league. Last season he tore his patellar tendon along with his ACL and MCL. He probably will begin training camp, if not the season, on the PUP.

Darius Jackson is an interesting case as his skill-set fits right in line with what the Cowboys' do with Dunbar. If he can continue to improve he may go from being a practice squad candidate to an active role player within Scott Linehan's system. He's got that gadget back feel to him and Linehan loves having that wrinkle in his back pocket. Rod Smith is getting a try at fullback and seeing as the Cowboys are so dead set on having that position, he'll likely take a roster spot.

The biggest acquisition was in the form of Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys' first-round draft pick. In order to get the most out of Tony Romo's twilight years, the Cowboys' believe they needed to return to their rushing dominance of 2014 ways. Elliott is a dynamic running back as he showed at Ohio State but he's a complete player at the position and someone who has received favorable comparisons to all kinds of NFL royalty at running back. If he's every bit of what they believe he is, the Cowboys will likely be running teams out of the building on Sunday afternoons. Elliott has been called just as much a pick for the Cowboys' offense as he is for their somewhat unknown and very suspect defense.

So, did the Dallas Cowboys improve at the position?

Of course they did and I would venture to say that with the top guys healthy, the Cowboys may have one of the best groups in the NFL. We know that Morris can produce in the zone scheme and McFadden showed that he had plenty left in the tank. Elliott is the new shiny toy for Scott Linehan and either Jackson or Dunbar offers a skill set that is needed in the NFL.