Phillip Tanner: Why Cowboys RB Is Must-Start in Week 8

Ryan DavenportContributor IOctober 26, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 21:  Phillip Tanner #34 of the Dallas Cowboys during their game at Bank of America Stadium on October 21, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Heading into the Dallas Cowboys' Week 8 matchup against their NFC East rivals from New York, it appears increasingly likely that the team will have a new starting running back on Sunday.

That's because with the statuses of both Felix Jones and DeMarco Murray unclear heading into the weekend, Phillip Tanner just may be Jason Garrett's No. 1 option in the backfield at home against the defending Super Bowl champions.

If that's the case, Tanner should be considered a valuable fantasy commodity, especially against the Giants, who rank 23rd in the NFL against the rush.

This afternoon, Nick Eatman of CBS Sports reported that Tanner will be the starter on Sunday.

The Cowboys will look to second-year player Phillip Tanner to handle the load in the running game Sunday. With DeMarco Murray likely out and Felix Jones banged up, it should be Tanner's time to shine. He got 13 carries against the Panthers last week for just 30 yards – running mostly in the fourth quarter when the Cowboys were being conservative and trying to run out the clock. He has just 44 career attempts for 137 yards and one touchdown. But right now, he's the only viable option the Cowboys have. Tanner has to be able to pick up some tough yards against the Giants' defense, to keep the pass rush at a minimum.

At this point, Tanner has to be considered a must-start for Week 8, because as a featured back in an offense that's ranked No. 2 in the league, he'll get more than his fair share of chances to put up big numbers.

In recent weeks, previously unknown backs such as Jonathan Dwyer and LaRod Stephens-Howling have excelled when given the opportunity to start, and Tanner could be the next to do so.

Regardless of whether Jones suits up, Tanner looks to be a safe bet to get the majority of the carries for the Cowboys, so at a minimum, he should be counted on for at least 60-to-70 yards rushing.

Whether he will ever start again for Dallas remains to be seen, but for now, the former Middle Tennessee State standout has to be viewed as a potential breakout back for Week 8.