If you are fantasy owner sitting on one of the Dallas Cowboys running backs, you are totally in the dark as to what is coming down the pike for this weekend. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett admitted on Tuesday that team has not decided which back will get the start this weekend. Joseph Randle in currently listed as the lead back, but that apparently has no sway over who is supposed to start at home on Sunday night against the Giants.
Usually for the Cowboys, it’s the quarterback or wide receiver positions that make the most noise. But one or more lucky running backs may get the keys to the kingdom and a chance at stardom as the starter this year. Randle, Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar, and newly acquired Christine Michael are all in contention for the top spot. Yearning for the yesteryear of the Triplets (Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith), Cowboys fans and fantasy owners are particularly nervous about who will grab the top spot.
The two front-runners for the starting position are McFadden and Randle. If you’re familiar with the Houston Texans’ quarterback situation, as played out on this season of HBO “Hard Knocks,” you know that it’s very hard to evaluate a player at a position when there is no competition between him and his so called “competition.” Just as Mallet and Hoyer match up in skills and ability, Randle and McFadden match up in the amount of trust is afforded each player. One reason for this is McFadden’s injury history and Randle’s off-the-field issues. In that case, the two cancel each other out. Another problem with Randle and McFadden is they haven’t performed on equal playing fields. In the preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings, McFadden’s only, the running back showed some of the quickness that made him the fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft. But, was that a side effect of Randle grinding out the first quarter and McFadden providing a change of pace? Or, has Randle been the front-runner for the starting position simply because no one trusts that McFadden can stay healthy?
Dunbar isn’t really in the conversation. He is much more known as a third down/change of pace guy. Having that reputation might actually be great for him because not being in the competition for the starting position means he can focus on his job(and keep it). One thing is for sure. It will be hard to replicate DeMarco Murray’s stats from last year. The now Philadelphia Eagle rushed for over 1,800 yards. But DeMarco had his faults as well. He could be accused of giving up on runs and just falling down. Then there’s the notion that maybe it was Dallas’ monster offensive line that created the running back’s MVP-caliber year.
With Dallas trading for Christine Michael, the question remains do the Cowboys have faith in any running back on their roster. The team, in an effort to promote fiscal responsibility, couldn’t address the position in the offseason, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t trying to find THAT guy. Michael has power and good blocking skills that could make him friends with Tony Romo real fast. But don’t expect him to get any significant playing time unless McFadden or Randle happen to miss games.
Randle has prove than he can carry some of the load, but who knows if he can deal with the pressure that comes with being a star on America’s Team. Something tells me that McFadden is going to have a stellar year. The Cowboys left him out of much of preseason action due to a hamstring injury. People tend to forget that, just like McFadden, Murray was known to catch the injury bug also. Last season was the first time Murray played in all 16 regular season games in his entire career while McFadden finally accomplished the same feat. But, unlike Murray, McFadden wasn’t running behind the all-pro offensive line that the Cowboys have built. The former Oakland Raider also has something Randle doesn’t; he’s a favorite of fellow Arkansas Razorback and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. If he stays healthy and gets going downhill, McFadden could easily win the starting job within the first couple of game. With Randle, Dunbar, and now Michael waiting in the wings, McFadden knows he only has so much time to capture the spotlight in Big D.