Who can forget Phillip Tanner’s helmet-less scamper into the end zone during the 2011 preseason?
The touchdown was reversed because the Dallas Cowboys were penalized for an illegal shift, but even if they hadn’t been penalized; the play wouldn’t have counted. The NFL had recently established a new rule that said the ball is dead when a player loses his helmet.
Tanner managed to make the team, but saw his season end on Dec. 9, 2011, due to a significant hamstring injury. In 2012, Tanner battled with Darrell Scott, Lance Dunbar and Jamize Olawale, but ultimately retained his spot as the team’s No. 3 running back.
In 2012, however, Tanner was a disappointment. Despite injuries to starting running back DeMarco Murray and an inconsistent Felix Jones, Tanner never capitalized on his opportunity. He struggled in pass protection and struggled heavily on special teams, which ultimately got him demoted in favor of Dunbar.
In 2013, Tanner showed up to OTAs in arguably the best shape of his career. Bryan Broaddus of DallasCowboys.com said that Tanner has remade his body, looks lighter and quicker with the ball in his hands and made major strides as a pass catcher. Broaddus also said that he was initially skeptical that Tanner would make the team, but now considers him a viable candidate for the No.3 running back spot.
Tanner will need a perfect training camp if he’s going to make the team. It doesn’t help Tanner’s cause that the Cowboys invested a draft pick on Joseph Randle, and if you’ve been paying attention to reports out of Valley Ranch, it certainly doesn’t help that Dunbar has been the most impressive running back not named Murray.
In my opinion, the Tanner experiment will end this year, barring injury.