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Dallas Cowboys: Will Running Back by Committee Work in 2015?

The Dallas Cowboys and DeMarco Murray parted ways this offseason, unable to come to terms on a new contract. Murray will now fly with the Eagles in Philadelphia, and the Cowboys must fill a hole in their backfield that appears as big as a Texas oil field. The 2014 season saw Murray play in all 16 games, while rushing the ball 392 times for 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns. Just for good measure, he added on an additional 416 receiving yards on 57 catches. Those are big shoes for the Dallas Cowboys to fill, but luckily, they have options.

The Cowboys have 5 running backs on roster for training camp, so let’s take a look at what each brings to the table, listed in order of their current place on the depth chart:

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  • Joseph Randle: The third-year back appears to be in line to handle the bulk of the work in the backfield. Randle had an impressive 6.7 yards-per-carry in limited work last year, and the Cowboys seem pretty confident that he can excel in a lead role behind their talented offensive line.
  • Darren McFadden: The oft-injured Run-DMC makes his way to Big D. McFadden showed promise early in his career as a member of the Oakland Raiders, but injuries have derailed him from reaching his true potential. He’s been battling hamstring injuries in training camp this season, and has barely been able to practice since signing with Dallas. The Cowboys are hoping for him to be the number two in a 1-2 punch backfield with Randle.
  • Lance Dunbar: The 5’8″, 195 lb, Dunbar could be in line for passing down duties in Big D. Dunbar has good hands and explosive speed, and could excel in a change of pace role.
  • Gus Johnson: The undrafted free agent from Stephen F. Austin suffered a separated shoulder in the first preseason game, and will miss some time from camp. He was considered to be on the roster bubble prior to his injury.  
  • Lache Seastrunk: Seastrunk spent 2014 on the practice squads of Carolina and Tennessee. He had an impressive career in college, but is having trouble transitioning to the pro game. Best case for him is a spot on the Cowboys’ practice squad.
Dallas Cowboys running back Joseph Randle (21) points to the crowd as the remaining minute runs off the clock in their victory over the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Sunday, October 12, 2014. The Cowboys won 30-23. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News) 10152014xBRIEFING

Dallas Cowboys running back Joseph Randle (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)

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The Cowboys have many options, but lots of question marks to answer at running back. Deciding what’s best for the offense is tricky. There are several schools of thought here:

  1. The Cowboys chose not to ‘overpay’ Murray, because they felt his production was more a result of their stellar offensive line. Read: Any back can excel with this line.
  2. Murray had an extensive workload last year, so Dallas decided to ‘sell high’ with the assumption that Murray would experience a downturn this season. Backs with similar workloads have shown such regression in previous years. Read: Murray reached his peak.
  3. Dallas believes in Randle and feels he can excel behind their o-line. Randle has the skill set, and now must put it all together in a full-time role. Read: It better be Randle.
  4. The ‘Boys were hopeful they were getting a fully healthy McFadden who could be productive in a number two role, and possibly challenge for full-time duties. Injuries have hampered him to this point, so only time will tell. Read: Veteran insurance is proving risky.
  5. McFadden is a former Arkansas Razorback, and Jerry loves his Razorbacks. DMC will be given every opportunity to succeed. Read: Please get healthy and win this job.
  6. Dunbar should be fine in a limited role and makes for an exciting change of pace option. Read: If one fails, we have a suitable backup.

There you have it, your 2015 Dallas Cowboys’ backfield, barring any free agency signings. There are several available; most notably Ray Rice, Pierre Thomas, and Steven Jackson. But the Cowboys have shown no inclination towards signing any of them.

The deeper we get into preseason, barring additional injuries, the more likely it is that Dallas moves forward as is in 2015. Expect the Cowboys to be a little more aggressive in the passing game, at least through the first few weeks of the regular season. This should give their backs time to settle in. If Randle seizes the opportunity, McFadden stays healthy, and Dunbar excels in his role, the running back by committee approach will turn out to be a smart gamble in Dallas. Is another division title on the way?

 

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Photo Credits: cowboysblog.dallasnews.com

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