When you look at offensive rosters across the NFL, almost every one includes a running back who is obviously a short-yardage, third down, goal-line back.
Football teams, almost without exception, have their speed backs who can turn short runs into explosive gains, and then they have their “grinding” back who can consistently pick up the third-and-two, or the fourth-and-one.
From a glance at the Cowboys roster– at least as it stands in the pre-season — there is no power back. Needless to say, this is at least a cause for question, if not concern.
Felix Jones is likely to be the starting back for Dallas, carrying the ball at least 20-25 times per game, but he is far from a bruiser, and prefers to try and find an opening between the tackles or break runs outside than plow inside for two yards and a cloud of dust.
Tashard Choice has proven to be injury-prone during his short tenure in Dallas, and is more of a power back than the others, but still should not be expected to take on this role with any consistency or constancy.
It’s possible that Lonyae Miller could become the guy in these types of situations, but as a unproven rookie, there is still much to prove for Jason Garrett to turn to him without hesitation instead of opting for the bread-and-butter play-action to Jason Witten or a quick-out to one of the athletic wideouts on the outside.
Miller has impressed the Dallas coaching staff so far during the course of training camp and in the early going of the pre-season, and should see more carries over the next few weeks to help Garrett and his staff determine if he could indeed be a worthy fill-in for the departed Marion Barber as the goal-line, short-yardage back.
Whatever happens, the Cowboys must identify someone to fill this role.
You simply cannot depend on your featured back to take short-yardage and goal-line punishment and ensure their long term viability and overall health.
The average career span of the NFL running back is short enough.
There’s no reason to shorten Felix Jones’ “lifespan” when steps can be taken to help him out.