This isn’t exactly the ideal time for the 3-3 Dallas Cowboys to lose their top two running backs. That, however, is the dilemma they are facing as they head into a pivotal Week 8 matchup with the rival New York Giants.
While their No. 1 and No. 2 runners nursing injuries, the Cowboys could be forced to put the weight of their ground attack on the shoulders of second-year running back Phillip Tanner.
Tanner stepped in for the Cowboys in Week 7 after starter Felix Jones went down with a bruised knee, but struggled to keep the running game afloat. Despite receiving 13 carries, Tanner only racked up 30 yards with a long of five. He also caught one pass for eight yards, but was generally ineffective.
“It was great to see Tanner go in there and handle that situation at the end of the game,” Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said after their 19-16 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
Despite his lack of production, it appears that Tanner could receive his first NFL start this upcoming weekend with the Cowboys’ top two running backs on the injury report.
Starting running back DeMarco Murray, who has proven to be rather injury prone through his first two NFL seasons, is currently dealing with a foot injury that sidelined him in Week 7 and is expected to do the same this week. Murray suffered an ankle fracture midway through the 2011 season, which brought an end to what was turning out to be a promising rookie year for the former third-rounder.
Jones, the Cowboys’ main backup, has gotten off to a slow start this season while battling rumors of his demise in Dallas. Through the first four weeks, Jones failed to make a significant impact, amassing a whopping 13 rushing yards on limited touches. Things seemed to be heading upwards for him in Week 6, but his first start of the season in Week 7, of course, ended with an injury.
Now that Tanner is slated for a start against the division-leading 5-2 Giants, it’ll be a huge opportunity for the young ball carrier to make a name for himself as a legitimate talent. The New York rush defense is ranked 23rd in the league, which leaves room for Tanner to enjoy some surprising success.
It all depends on whether or not Murray or Jones can make a quick recovery. Don’t be surprised, though, if Tanner is lining up behind Tony Romo as the Cowboys offense attempts to keep up with the Giants.