Tallahassee Journal

Cowboys comfortable with trio of backs replacing departed rushing leader

Cowboys comfortable with trio of backs replacing departed rushing leader

As a whole, there might be no running back group in the NFL facing more pressure this year than the Dallas Cowboys’ trio of tailbacks charged with replacing 2014 rushing leader DeMarco Murray. That the Cowboys let the first phase of free agency pass by without a major move and that the team didn’t use any of its eight draft picks on a running back were signs of confidence in returning players Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar and oft-injured veteran free agent Darren McFadden, who signed in March.

2015-6-17 joseph randleConsider it replacement-by-committee. Yet despite owner Jerry Jones’ faith, and head coach Jason Garrett’s offseason platitudes, come September the truth will be revealed about that trio — and perhaps a little bit of truth about Murray, who signed with the NFC East rival Philadelphia Eagles.

Was Murray’s success in 2014 a credit to the Cowboys’ renewed commitment to the running game, and was he the beneficiary of the blocking one of the NFL’s best offensive lines? Or was it a tribute to Murray’s talent and work? “I have full confidence in any of the guys that step in there now,” center Travis Frederick said. “It’s fun to watch these guys practice, because they all have a certain energy about them. They’re ready to go, and they want to prove themselves and they want to show that they can do the things that DeMarco did last year.”

Lost in Murray’s monster year, when he rushed for 1,875 yards and 13 touchdowns, were flashes from Randle and Dunbar, Garrett said. Coaches this spring looked at Randle’s 6.7-yards-a-carry average last year in relief of Murray as a sign that he had big-play potential, and they saw value in Dunbar as a third-down option after he averaged more than 12 yards a catch last year. “You’d be impressed by what they did, so those guys are comfortable with our offense, I think they’re comfortable playing next to the guys in this scheme and we’re looking to give those guys more opportunities,” Garrett said Wednesday.