Everyone knows that the Dallas Cowboys are going to use the running game as the foundation of their offense in 2016. And why wouldn’t they? Their offensive line is almost universally recognized as the best in the NFL today. They just drafted one of the most complete running backs to come out of college in a while with the fourth-overall pick in the draft. They also went out and signed a two-time Pro Bowl veteran running back with plenty of tread left on the tires. They are preparing to rerun (pun intended) the 2014 strategy when they used the running game to set up everything else and ended up going to the playoffs with a 12-4 record.
In the 2014 season, the Cowboys relied almost exclusively on DeMarco Murray to do the heavy lifting. He had 392 carries for 1,845 yards on his way to winning the league’s rushing title. That’s a lot of work for one running back, and probably not something the Cowboys will try again.
So, what might the Cowboys do in 2016 that has happened only six times in NFL history? There might be a possibility that they have two teammates rush for over 1,000 yards.
Last year, our own OCC brought up this possibility for the 2015 season before everything went south. Before Dez Bryant got hurt and took away an offensive weapon that kept teams honest about not stacking the box. Before Tony Romo got hurt and made the prospect of the Cowboys passing game laughable, meaning teams just sat on the running game, daring the Cowboys to put the ball in the air. Before Joseph Randle had his meltdown and was jettisoned from the team. Before Lance Dunbar blew out his knee, etc.
But, this year is a whole new game. The Cowboys have Ezekiel Elliott and Alfred Morris. Dallas will likely not want to wear Elliott out, especially if Morris proves more than capable of moving the chains while he is in the game. All the elements are in place. An offensive line that was actually able to get Darren McFadden over 1,000 yards despite not starting until Week 7. A stud rookie in Elliott, a proven, young veteran in Morris. An offensive coordinator in Scott Linehan who has shown he’s not afraid to stick to the running game for an entire season. An offense with enough firepower at quarterback and the receiving positions to make defenses play back and not stack the box.
Also, there’s this: Elliott and Morris fit Jason Garrett’s offensive scheme. In fact, as much if not more so than any draft pick and free-agent signing since he became the head coach, Garrett was vocal about these two players. For him and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan to run their ideal offense, even a more dominant version of 2014, this duo was the answer. At this point, I even think they have a chance to become the sixth pair of running backs in NFL history to each rush for 1,000 yards on the same team in the same season.
You may notice Sully said the sixth pair of running backs. It’s true, only five times have running backs that are teammates rushed for over 1,000 yards in a season. But teammates rushing for over 1,000 yards has happened six times because Michael Vick, a quarterback, did it once with Warrick Dunn.
|Year||Team||Player 1||Yards||Player 2||Yards|
|1972||Miami Dolphins||Larry Csonka||1,117||Mercury Morris||1,000|
|1976||Franco Harris||1,128||Rocky Bleier||1,036|
|1985||Kevin Mack||1,104||Earnest Byner||1,002|
So, the question is out there. Can the Cowboys do in 2016 what has happened only six times before in NFL history? Can they have a pair of 1,000 yard rushers? We’ll steal part of OCC’s poll from last season for you to vote in, then you can hit up the comments.