Dallas Cowboys: Full Position Breakdown and Depth Chart Analysis at Running Back
The Dallas Cowboys know who their No. 1 running back is. It's DeMarco Murray. The only real question marks at this position heading into training camp are which player will be his backup and the No. 3 option.
One change the position has seen since last season is the departure of Phillip Tanner. The team decided not to re-sign the rusher, who is currently a free agent.
Second-year player Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar will battle it out with undrafted rookies and veteran Ryan Williams to fill the RB depth chart. Randle was a fifth-round pick by the Cowboys in the 2013 NFL draft. Dunbar is a former undrafted free agent from the 2012 rookie class.
By looking at tape from Dallas' games last season though, it's clear who was the more impressive of the two backups.
With the battle for the two jobs behind Murray in mind, here is a look at what the Cowboys' running back depth chart will look like to start 2014 and why.
No. 3: Joseph Randle
Randle turned a few heads last season, but not for the right reasons. The 2013 fifth-round pick averaged just three yards per carry and tallied just 164 yards on 54 carries.
When watching film on Randle's first year, it's obvious that he was not ready for the speed of the NFL for much of the season. He was lackluster when called upon to pass block and just never seemed comfortable when given the football. Randle's inability to impress in his first year is likely what led to Dallas bringing in former Arizona Cardinal Williams.
Randle gave the Dallas coaching staff little reason to consider him for any position other than the third option at running back. It doesn't help his cause that Dunbar looked impressive in limited time last year before injury struck, either.
Unless he shows a vast improvement from 2013 during training camp, that's exactly the spot he'll find himself in on the depth chart come September.
No. 2: Lance Dunbar
Unlike Randle, Dunbar made the most of his limited opportunities in 2013. He rushed for 150 yards on 30 carries, averaging a solid five yards per attempt. The North Texas product earned a majority of those rushing yards against the Oakland Raiders last Thanksgiving Day when he ran for 82 yards on 12 carries.
Unfortunately for the Cowboys and Dunbar, he suffered a season-ending posterior lateral corner injury on that day as well. Now that he has nearly recovered however, Dunbar told Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News that he's feeling better than ever.
Dunbar is back!! & even better then before #hardworkpaysoff— lance dunbar (@Dunbar_CDB5) May 22, 2014
"I've been working hard, trying to get it back right. I might be faster, I'm not sure, but I know I'm stronger," Dunbar told Machota.
A stronger and fully healthy No. 25 should have no problem beating out Randle for the backup running back job. Dunbar has shown serious potential whenever given the chance to do so. It only makes sense that the Dallas coaching staff would give him another chance to showcase his talents in 2014.
Starter: DeMarco Murray
There is no question that DeMarco Murray will be Dallas' starting running back, especially after his 2013 campaign. Murray not only had the healthiest season of his NFL career, but he also put up Pro Bowl-worthy numbers.
The Oklahoma product rushed for 1,121 yards and nine touchdowns last year, both career highs. While Murray may have just three full seasons in the pros under his belt, it's clear he has all the skill to become a top-tier rusher.
Murray's issue has always been whether or not he can stay on the field for a 16-game season. He has never played a full regular season in his career.
Dallas will be hoping to have No. 29 suit up for each contest this coming season, but history shows that might not happen.
Regardless of whether he plays in each game, Murray is the Cowboys' unquestioned starter heading into the 2014 season. After the numbers he put together last year, the offense would be wise to get Murray involved early and often this season.