Nobody has separated themselves yet and it remains a question of how good and effective this Cowboys running game by committee can be.
Joseph Randle has shown flashes early in his career that he can be a difference-making player in the league, and is eager to prove he can handle the load. The Cowboys have raved how mature and professionally Randle has handled himself so far in camp on the field.
“He’s been on point with not only his run stuff, but his pass-game stuff,” running backs coach Gary Brown said. “I always try to tell him … ‘who are you without the ball? I know what you can do with it, what can you do without it?’
“We want to be complete football players. We don’t just want to be runners. Guys who are just runners don’t last in the league very long. We can get anybody to go out here and just run. We want guys who can catch the ball, pass protect, protect the football, do the things that are necessary to make an offense run.”
Darren McFadden, meanwhile, has shown the burst that made him the fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft. He said he feels he is past the hamstring issues that slowed him most of camp. McFadden showed last season he can get through an entire season healthy, albeit in a more limited role with the Oakland Raiders. He had 155 carries last season, fewer than 10 a game.
Based on Brown's comments, it sounds as if Randle is handling himself well in practice. We believe he's the team's best option as a primary runner, but as long as McFadden is healthy, he'll get some touches.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015, 5:51pm
The veteran running back played four snaps vs. the 49ers. He carried three times for four yards and caught one pass for three yards.
"I feel good. I came out yesterday and was just a little sore," McFadden said after Wednesday's morning walk-through. "But I definitely feel good and I'll be out there today."
McFadden played in all 16 games last season. It was the first time during his seven years in Oakland that he didn't miss a game because of injury. He said Wednesday that he's not looking to be cautious with his workload during the preseason or regular season. McFadden also said he "definitely" expects to play Saturday in Dallas' third preseason game.
Tony Romo is expected to get his first action, albeit briefly, but this game will mean more for the running backs: Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden and Lance Dunbar. None played last week against the San Diego Chargers and all three will be available Sunday.
Nobody will run away with the job, but they can at least ease the fears some have about the position group with a positive showing, the story said. But, fantasy owners will hopefully be able to get a look into the future in terms of which one has the most value for their team. The odds-on favorite is Joseph Randle, of course, but all three are expected to have some role in the offense.
Cowboys writer Bryan Broaddus: I like what I saw from Darren McFadden in his first extensive work during the various team periods in which he took snaps. He looked decisive and committed to what he was handed from this Rams defense in the running game. He was in position to execute the check downs when needed and when asked to step up for pass protection, he was up to the task.
McFadden is perfectly capable of producing behind the team's talented offensive line, but we believe Joseph Randle will be more effective and is more likely to stay healthy.
The running back competition predicted at the start of camp will take a little more time to get going for the Cowboys.
Darren McFadden made his camp debut Saturday but will be worked into practice slowly. Lance Dunbar also returned Saturday, but he will be worked in smartly too. Dunbar took the team drills Saturday and showed no signs of worry with the oblique strain.
Running backs coach Gary Brown predicted "hellified running" with his top guys available.
"As far as I'm concerned, we're right on schedule, as far as having a back or backs ready to go for the New York Giants," owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. "I'm not in any way anxious. When we practice the running game, we practice the physical aspect of it. It takes a lot of players to make the running game work -- not just the back."
Joseph Randle is the leader to be the Cowboys' lead back, but he has had more than 10 carries in a game just three times, and he has not averaged more than 3.4 yards per carry in those contests. McFadden hasn't averaged more than 3.4 yards per carry since 2011. Dunbar has 80 carries in his first three years. But for now, the story said, the Cowboys are going with what they've got at the RB position, saying only they will continue to evaluate talent. Gus Johnson signed as an undrafted free agent and scored a TD in the team's last preseason game, but now has a slight separated shoulder. If the injuries continue to pile up, Dallas may not have a choice but to bring in someone from the outside.
Finally, the Dallas Cowboys will get to see what they have in running back Darren McFadden. McFadden said Saturday after the team's morning walk-through practice that he'll be full-go for the first time in practice this evening and will take part in team drills.
McFadden has missed the first 11 practices of training camp while recovering from a strained hamstring he suffered the week before the club's first practice in California. McFadden also missed several practices during the Cowboys' offseason practices while nursing a different hamstring injury.
During Monday's practice, yet another Dallas Cowboys running back missed practice when Joseph Randle sat out with an oblique injury. With Darren McFadden Lance Dunbar on the shelf, it was undrafted free agent back Gus Johnson who got the call over 2014 draft pick Lache Seastrunk. In his first real opportunity with the first team offense, Johnson shined.
Johnson looked good throughout practice, and he stood out specifically during the team's goal-line drills. At 5-foot-10 and 215 pounds, Johnson has an ideal build for short-yardage situations. His build is also unique to the rest of the Cowboys' depth chart at running back.
"Gus did a good job yesterday. We had a short yardage and goal line," Tony Romo said on KTCK-AM 1310 via the Dallas Morning News. "It's hard because you don't have live so you don't have the chance to show your ability to break a tackle, maybe get through a gap with a thud, not being a thud, it's not a tackle. I just think he showed a little bit when we were live yesterday in some of the shortage. He's got a chance."
Johnson was the 2014 Southland Conference Player of the Year after rushing for 1,683 yards and 23 touchdowns on 256 carries. Over the course of his collegiate career, Johnson averaged 6.2 yards per carry and finished with 51 rushing touchdowns and 3,892 rushing yards. With all the injuries and not really a clear-cut RB1 on the team, it's not out of the question the team could ride an unknown who steps up in camp.
Tuesday, August 11, 2015, 2:07pm
Now that Cowboys RB Joseph Randle has a strained oblique (he was in pads for Tuesday’s practice), Lance Dunbar continues to nurse an ankle injury and Darren McFadden has yet to take the practice field with a sore hamstring, the color-coded alert level for fans has been elevated to red.
It’s unlikely the club does anything at the moment.
First of all, even if Randle does play in Thursday’s game anyway, he will only get a handful of carries.
Secondly, all three backs should be on the practice field Saturday.
The next two preseason games and two days of practice against the St. Louis Rams will serve as the basis of the evaluation for this RB committee, the story said. If the coaching staff feels it must add another runner, it will reach that conclusion later in camp. Chris Johnson was reportedly offered a one-year deal by the Cardinals Tuesday, which left some top names like Steven Jackson, Ben Tate and Pierre Thomas as possible options.
Some Raiders notes from beat writer Jerry McDonald:
• Once the preseason begins, it should be one series and out for Derek Carr.
The Raiders simply can’t afford a third quarterback flip-flop in three years, and the only way this happens is if Carr gets hurt. It’s impossible to know how good Carr will be, but he’s light years ahead of Christian Ponder and Matt McGloin, who look to be in a dead-heat to be the backup.
Really interested to see Taiwan Jones in a game situation. Back at running back, he’s had some sensational moments in camp. But beware - speed backs can dominate in non-tackling situations (see Darren McFadden, any year).
• Michael Crabtree has caught everything in sight and seems to have an immediate connection with Carr. Amari Cooper, despite the odd snaps when he looks like a rookie, is even-money to be a legit playmaker in his first season.
After that, it’s a jumble. Rod Streater is out with an illness the club has yet to diagnose. Andre Holmes has had his moments, but so has 6-foot-5 Kris Durham, third-year player Brice Butler and Kenbrell Thompkins. Plus anyone who can excel on special teams.
Many felt it was a good bet Murray would be the lead back and it doesn't seem like Richardson, or anyone else, will pass him. Helu appears like he'll get his normal third-down role like he had with the Redskins. Crabtree has had a good camp to this point and looks like a nice signing. Meanwhile Cooper seems to be up and down.
The search for DeMarco Murray’s replacement will go on without Darren McFadden practicing at the start of training camp. On Thursday, he was placed on the active/physically unable to perform list with a hamstring injury.
McFadden, 27, was dealing with the hamstring injury in organized team activities in June. He was limited then and doing rehab work on the side during competitive drills. McFadden can be removed from the active/PUP list once he is medically cleared. He can then practice immediately.
The soon-to-be 28-year-old McFadden hasn't cracked 3.5 YPC since the 2011 season, when he ran for 614 yards on 113 carries (5.4 YPC) in seven games. That's the rub with McFadden -- fantasy owners haven't been able to count on his durability. He has missed roughly a quarter of his team's games since entering the league. We believe he’ll serve as a change-of-pace/3rd-down back behind Joseph Randle.
Four months after Jones raved over Darren McFadden as still possessing the "kinds of skills that got him drafted with the fourth pick," the Cowboys owner and general manager spent Wednesday praising McFadden's competition, Joseph Randle.
"We have a player (in Randle) that has the potential -- and we based that on, not on what he did at Oklahoma State or how we drafted him, but by literally being a teammate around here for the last two years -- but he has the potential to be the kind of back that would step in there and be your No. 1 back," Jones told reporters. "If he were not here, then I wouldn't feel as good as we go into the season and what might happen."
He was highly effective (6.7 YPC) in 2014 and is reportedly showing more maturity after several off-the-field issues. He's not going to see a DeMarco Murray-type workload, but 225-250 carries is feasible if he wins the lead back job, and it appears he will.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015, 11:46am
He was fourth in the running back chase to replace DeMarco Murray behind Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden and Lance Dunbar. Williams had two arthroscopic surgeries on his knee in the offseason, the most recent coming after the Cowboys' June minicamp.
Williams spent last year on the Cowboys' practice squad, spurning chances late in the season to join other teams' active rosters. The Cowboys rewarded him with a two-year deal that included a $240,000 signing bonus.
There was some consternation, both among fans and media, that the Cowboys lost an integral part of their offense when running back DeMarco Murray signed with the Eagles. But the price -- a five-year, $42 million deal ($21 million guaranteed) -- was prohibitive and the Cowboys were right to look for running back help elsewhere.
A lot can happen between the start of training camp and the regular season, and the Cowboys will no doubt be on the lookout for backs that can help them. And that list could include Chris Johnson, the former Titans first-round pick who struggled with the Jets last season and remains unsigned.
If the Johnson-Cowboys rumors sound familiar, they should; CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora wrote earlier this month that several NFL executives brought up Dallas as a possible landing spot for Johnson. And Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said in May that Johnson was on the team's short list, according to the story. It could be significant news for those targeting, or looking to keep, Joseph Randle.
Nick: I think there are a few good battles, but I don’t know how any of them compare to running back. It’s not only the most wide-open, but the highest-profiled position as well. I think Joseph Randle will get the early nod but something tells me Darren McFadden will end up getting more carries. And the way this team uses Lance Dunbar will be interesting. So to me, it’s running back all the way.
Bryan: Running back. I have put my eggs in the McFadden basket but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see one of the other backs step up and have the type of camp that makes this front office and coaching staff sit up and take notice.
We believe that Randle is certainly the better option at this point, but Broaddus and Eatman both think that McFadden still has the better chance to lead the team in carries. Randle's ADP has climbed into the 4th round, so he's a risky pick at that point in the draft given this uncertainty.
Just like in the game of cards, jokers are amazing weapons in football because they don’t fit into the book easily when it comes to figuring out ways to defend them.
It is often used to describe the difficult to handle tight ends, but I think we can also list the running backs who aren’t actually running backs. Darren Sproles, Reggie Bush, maybe even Randall Cobb, and yes, the Cowboys hope, Lance Dunbar is at least a “poor man’s” version of that. He is listed as a running back, but if we judge him as running backs are judged, we will quickly be underwhelmed with his running the ball (especially inside) and his pass protection. Both are just not up to the NFL grade.
This is a very detailed story breaking down Dunbar's strengths and weaknesses. The article goes on to say the Cowboys remain convinced that his role must be expanded as a weapon used in ways that are simply difficult to account for by a defense. The author added Dunbar as a runner has a 2-year track record of A) not getting the ball as a RB and B) not being productive enough to compel the staff to give him the ball more. But, he pointed out a Dunbar-led attack helped to knock off Seattle on the road last year, however he wasn't used much after that. The story also says his pass protection is suspect and the team doesn't appear to want to simply hand him the ball as a RB. He's capable of big plays, but probably not consistent fantasy points. Joseph Randle is ranked 24th on our RB list and is expected to at least split carries with Darren McFadden.
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