Dallas Cowboys: Will Running Game Appear in Preseason Dress Rehearsal?

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Dallas Cowboys: Will Running Game Appear in Preseason Dress Rehearsal?
USA TODAY Sports
DeMarco Murray

As much as we would all like to see it, it's unlikely that the Dallas Cowboys rushing attack takes over against the Cincinnati Bengals, at least not while the upper portions of both depth charts are on the field.

The Dallas offense is now under the play-by-play influence of offensive coordinator Bill Callahan. So far the results have been pretty good overall. To many Dallas observers, the importance against the Bengals is to try to establish a running game that helps get the ball into the end zone.

We already know that Tony Romo is an aggressive, down-field passer that has never had a problem generating yards. He's playing at a high level right now while having thrown zero interceptions in limited work.

The better the running game, the better Romo will be.

The Cincinnati defense will offer a rather stiff test, as pointed out by DallasCowboys.com analyst and scout Bryan Broaddus while discussing the interior of the Cowboys offensive line. Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer runs the 4-3 scheme just as Dallas counterpart Monte Kiffin does. Zimmer has run a top-ranked defense before and this is a game where the health of Romo should be considered heavily, and it will be.

The ground game will be important in terms of keeping Dallas' franchise passer on his feet no matter how long he plays. The same might be said for Romo's backup Kyle Orton.

Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Zimmer served as defensive coordinator for Dallas Cowboys from 2000-2006.

With Romo held out of the preseason opener in Canton against the Miami Dolphins, Callahan called an impressive 34 rushing attempts as the Cowboys totaled 170 yards. Callahan ran 20 times the following week against the Raiders and just 16 times last week against the Cardinals.

Granted, these are preseason games that really mean little concerning scores and statistics, but it would be a positive indicator to see the offense score a couple of touchdowns in the first half. Running the football is likely to play a major role in that possibility.

Now, Dallas could certainly cash in on a couple of deep tosses from Romo to wide receiver Dez Bryant and perhaps rookie Terrance Williams who he almost hit for a touchdown in Arizona. Dallas could have a paltry two carries for six yards and still have a 14-point lead.

The Cowboys offense has generally been an effort in chaos over the last several seasons. The better offensive lines that Romo has played with are long gone as a new foundation is being laid with youngsters like left tackle Tyron Smith and center Travis Frederick.

However, the days of silly snaps going over Romo's head are gone and there's little doubt that Romo, if healthy and protected, can pass for 5,000 yards.

This may not be the best way to go, however.

Dallas Cowboys 2013 draft pick Joseph Randle at Oklahoma State

Callahan has four young running backs that can all make solid arguments for a spot on the roster. Leading the way is lower ranked guys like Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner, but there's still starter DeMarco Murray and 2013 draft pick Joseph Randle.

Let me point out that running backs can make a significant impact catching the football as well. To this point, all of the above runners can catch the football.

The idea is to not have to throw the football down field so much—this is when penalties, sacks and possible turnovers start to occur.

It will be interesting to see if Callahan can get his collection of backs involved in the attack against one of the league's better defensive rosters. Dallas' fourth preseason game is considered, as usual, to be the ''dress rehearsal'' for Week 1 of the regular season.

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