The Cowboys will open the 2013 season in the backfield with the duo of DeMarco Murray and Joseph Randle carrying the load on the ground.
Murray will play the feature act, with the rookie, Randle, playing second fiddle.
The running game must improve for the Cowboys to become an immediate contender. The running attack finished ranked 31st in the league last season, and only averaged a mere 3.6 yards per carry.
However, the team is hopeful to boast a stronger running game in 2013. And that hope is contingent on health.
Murray has missed nine games in his first two seasons in the league, and has rightfully earned the title of injury prone. The team needs Murray to stay healthy for the first time in his career.
When healthy, there’s no doubting what Murray can do when he’s in the open field. This is a player who showed flashes of greatness when he rushed for over 600 yards in his first stretch as the Cowboys starter. If able to play a full season, Murray has the ability to remind Cowboys fans of the likes of Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett. And that’s high praise for a guy only entering his third season.
The Cowboys are expecting Randle to lessen some of the load off Murray’s shoulders.
The team drafted Randle out of Oklahoma State, and he possessed similar numbers to the current Cowboys starter in his college career. Cowboys’ scouts had a third round grade on Randle, but he fell to them in the fifth round. If scouts are indeed right about that grade, Randle should be able to play about one third of the snaps in the backfield. This will help in keeping Murray fresh for the 4th quarter, and for the entire season.
Randle reminds the Cowboys of Murray in terms of talent, and has also started reminding them of Murray’s injury bug. Randle is recovering from thumb surgery, and was seen during OTA’s and mini camp sporting a cast on his right hand.
The injury to the number 2 back has prompted the battle for who will be the 3rd and final back to make the 53-man roster.
The battle will be fought between Lance Dunbar, Philip Tanner, and undrafted free agent Kendial Lawrence.
It’s a common belief by those in the Cowboys camp that Dunbar will hold on to the 3rd and final spot. His quickness offers an advantage over Tanner and Lawrence, for he can be a change of pace type back and contribute as a possible kick-returner.
Tony Romo sure could utilize Dunbar’s quickness on screen passes out of the backfield. It is my prediction he wins the last running back spot. For Tanner to have a shot, he has to play out of his mind on special teams in camp, and improve as runner, which can happen, but Dunbar seems to be more in favor here .
Lawrence has received reps with Randle out, but I don’t expect him to be more than a practice squad player in his first season with Dallas.
The running game must be better for the Cowboys to contend in the NFC and within the NFC East. If they stay healthy, this unit is more than capable of doing the job.
Hold your breath Cowboys faithful, and hope the new duo doesn’t catch that injury bug once again. The season hinges on it.