The Dallas Cowboys have a big decision to make regarding their running back situation. DeMarco Murray is going to be the starter, but the second string position is wide open. With the addition of Ryan Williams and rookie Ben Malena, the odd man out might be former Oklahoma State standout Joseph Randle.
Randle was thought to be a steal in the fifth-round of last year’s draft. He got some early work as Murray had some injury issues. He didn’t do a bad job, but he didn’t really inspire a lot of confidence either. He scored two touchdowns, but averaged only 3.0 yards per carry in limited work.
During the last eight weeks of the season Randle only had 10 carries. Now Murrays’ success had a lot to do with that, but many think it was his lack of understanding of pass blocking and blitz pickups. If the coaching staff can’t trust certain guys, then it doesn’t matter if a player is a rookie or a 15-year veteran, they won’t play.
The last thing the Cowboys need is a missed assignment on a blitz and have Tony Romo blindsided causing him to miss significant time.
It’s not only Randle’s mediocre play that makes his future with Dallas foggy, it’s also about his competition.
Lance Dunbar has some experience in the Cowboys’ system. He earned the backup role last year, but injuries have plagued him throughout his career. A serious knee injury ended his season prematurely last year. There is concern about how healthy he will be going forward.
Dunbar provides electrifying speed and allusiveness. He possess great cutting ability and a great set of hands. All Romo has to do is find a way to get him the ball and it’s a potential score.
For further information on how successful Dunbar can be, read this article regarding his skill set.
Ryan Williams was brought in to compete for the backup role. Williams is looking to resurrect his career after sitting out last year rehabbing his ruptured patella tendon from his rookie season. He was very productive at Virginia Tech and if he can get close to that level, Dallas may have grabbed their backup or future starter.
I think Williams’ new found respect for the game has given him great perspective and desire to play. More on Williams resurgence can be viewed here.
The biggest wildcard is Ben Malena, the free agent running back from Texas A&M. He appears to be the anti-Randle. Malena is a very good pass-blocker and is willing to be plugged in anywhere he can contribute. Whether he’s a backup, third option or assumes a special teams role, he has that passion for the game most rookies possess. He has impressed the Cowboys’ coaches so far in OTAs.
There’s a lot of time before moves have to be made. Each of these guys has an opportunity to separate themselves from their competition. Right now, it seems as though Randle may be the odd man out in the muddled Cowboys backfield.