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Which Current Cowboy Is the Best Long-Term Option Backing Up DeMarco Murray?

Derek GerberichCorrespondent IOctober 24, 2012

Which Current Cowboy Is the Best Long-Term Option Backing Up DeMarco Murray?

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    A banged up DeMarco Murray is just one item on a long list of Dallas Cowboy woes headed into Week 8 of the regular season.

    As reported by ESPN's Todd Archer, star inside linebacker Sean Lee could be shelved for a significant amount of time, and Calvin Watkins notes that center Phil Costa will (somewhat miraculously) need to miss four to six weeks.

    Tack on the recent narrow victory over the 1-5 Carolina Panthers, and it surely seems that the Cowboys are at their weakest point.

    So, what now?

    We can start with the injury that ignited the mess in the first place—Murray's foot. Injuries are nothing new to Murray, so it makes sense to look at which current Cowboys running back is the best long-term backup.

    With only three running backs on the active roster, this doesn't seem like a monumental task. Let's get started.

1) Felix Jones

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    Cowboys fans are familiar with good ol' Felix Jones.

    The 25-year-old constantly teases fans and front-office personnel alike with flashes of brilliance paired with periods of uselessness.

    Take for example Felix's stat line after he replaced Murray against the Baltimore Ravens: 18 carries for 92 yards and a touchdown. Against the Ravens, no less.

    And how did he follow it up?

    By averaging 2.9 yards per carry on 15 carries against the lowly Carolina Panthers.

    See what I mean?

    VERDICT: Jones might be 25, but he's an old 25. His speed is diminishing, and his injury history isn't any better than Murray's. No thanks.

2) Lance Dunbar

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    A 22-year-old youngster from North Texas, Lance Dunbar was activated from the Cowboys practice squad two weeks ago, and has seen one carry in a Cowboys uniform.

    Note: the carry did go for a meaningful 11 yards, but alas, it was just one carry.

    According to Rotoworld.com, Jason Garrett has noted that Dunbar will play more of a pinch-hitter's role in the Cowboy ground game during Murray's absence. This will theoretically allow Jones and Phillip Tanner to develop a rhythm with their shared role.

    VERDICT: At 22, he's still raw. But banking on a 22-year-old recently promoted from the practice squad as a long-term backup? Not a good idea.

3) Phillip Tanner

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    Tanner, a 24-year-old out of Middle Tennessee State, is the final running back on the current Cowboys roster. 

    In his two games since the Murray injury, Tanner has rushed for 61 yards on 22 carries. Not a single one of his rushes has gone for double-digit yards. Quite frankly, he's been rather ineffective.

    But his competition hasn't shown much promise either, leaving Tanner to be the Cowboys' only hope.

    VERDICT: Not a single running back on the roster has earned the title of best backup. Fragile Felix is not a good long-term bet, and Dunbar has one career carry. Cowboy fans haven't had enough time to get tired of seeing Tanner on the field just yet, so he gets the nod by default.

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